About five years ago when I started writing farm features for my local newspaper, I wondered whether I would eventually write myself out of farms to write about.

If I wrote just two feature stories a week, that adds up to 104 farms and stories a year. Over the course of five years, that averages out to 520 stories.

I can cover a lot of news with 500 articles — but as I’ve progressed over the years, I’ve realized again and again that I’m in no danger of reaching the end.

For one thing, there are so many farms — especially now that I work for a paper that covers all of Ohio and parts of surrounding states. There are tens of thousands of farms and farm-related businesses to choose from.

Times change

And, as time goes by, new people are becoming farmers, and many of the existing farms are transitioning to new owners and forming new partnerships.

Business models change, as well, and farms that have traditionally produced one type of livestock or crop could be entirely different in five years time. Or, they may still be producing the same commodity — but with new equipment and infrastructure and a new approach.

The past couple months, the staff at Farm and Dairy has been working hard on our annual progress edition — which highlights the growth and “progress” at selected area operations.

Our theme for this year is “Today’s Agriculture,” and it amazes me how different today’s agriculture really is — different from our grandparents and ancestors — but even different than the last decade, or even last year!

We will have a wide variety of stories, including a look at the wine and grape industry, meat goats, produce farms and winter farmers markets, dairy technology and robotic milkers — to name just a few things.

Many of the stories I wrote for the section ended up becoming two stories, because there is so much information and so much going on.

If they could see us now

I often wonder what some of the earlier generations of farmers would think today, if they could come back just one day to see what modern farming looks like. It’s a guess, of course, because such a thing isn’t possible.

But I don’t think they would be lost entirely. The generation that used horses to lift loose hay into the old hay lofts with a series of ropes and pulleys, I think their jaws would drop to see a modern square baler or a large square baler in action. But I think they’d understand what you were doing and probably envy us just a little.

I’d love to see a guy who grew up using walk-behind, one bottom plow pulled by a horse, while he’s checking out a six bottom gang plow — or a chisel plow — or a farm that uses no-till and doesn’t plow at all!

Or how about a farmer who only knew how to hand milk a cow — in the presence of a double 14 parlor with the 70 or so pounds of milk today’s cow makes, each day! Or, the crop farmer who counted himself blessed to have corn yield 50 bushels to the acre — in a field where it’s topping 200.

Building our future

Maybe these are lofty thoughts — since we can’t exactly bring back anyone who is no longer with us. But even in my short time, as I mentioned, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change and advancement on our farms.

Nothing stays the same. Some of the technologies or trends that I’m writing about today, could be obsolete in a few years. Ten years from now, someone reading our “Today’s Agriculture” section might laugh at what we knew, or thought we knew, about farming.

A better way to look at it, perhaps, is that today’s farming practices are the building blocks of where we’ll be tomorrow — ten-twenty years down the road or more. What’s going on now is important because it’s where we’re at — in 2012. But it’s a safe bet we’ll be somewhere different in 2013, and 2020, and that there will be plenty of new farm story ideas each and every year.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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