Photos by Janie Hanson
CtG's founder Janie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, and she's still a part owner and actively involved in the family business. The rest of us have heard many farm stories from Janie, but it wasn't until last week that we sat down to learn what all goes into growing commercial crops.
Janie led us through the details of corn and soybean farming — from how tractor implements work to how farmers deal with commodity prices. Here's what we learned as a team:
Laura: Commercial farming isn’t just about corn and soybeans! Financial, business and technological minded management is a must when it comes to being successful.
Rachel: Seriously, a lot goes into it! I was also astounded by the financial investment needed to even just purchase a new piece of equipment or introduce a new crop to the farmland. Janie explained that the price of a combine compares with that of a house. It reaffirmed why innovation is necessary to the ag industry in order to be financially viable in growing the farm while growing with the times.
Colleen: Yes, and Janie mentioned that people who have no understanding of the huge cost and effort — or a willingness to learn — instantly lose credibility with farmers. It was enlightening to dig into all of the inputs that go into a yearly crop and the many financial decisions farmers have to make about how they will grow and sell their crops. For example, herbicides and insecticides are important for maintaining yield — they allow farmers to grow more food on less land. And having a higher crop yield isn't just about making a profit for the farmer, but about feeding people. Farmers need to be able to grow enough food to feed the world.
Rachel: The concern of brain drain in rural areas really opened my eyes to the challenges that rural-based industries face — they have to encourage families and millennials to either stay in the community or move back. Typically, people move away for education and then rarely boomerang back home. Or, conversely, they get flack for staying there in the first place — it's assumed they didn't have any other choice. Learning about the challenges that agriculture is facing in the transition from baby boomers to millennials made it exciting to think about what Connect the Grey can offer, in terms of succession planning and engaging people in the community.
The presentation started with simple drawings of combines and grain bins, but left us with a new understanding of the complex decisions that go into a field of corn or soybeans. For our next lesson, maybe Janie will let us drive the tractor?