Technology on the Farm

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When my husband and I started farming as fresh-faced 22-year-olds, we had no idea how fast things would change. We had no idea our young faces would soon give way to wrinkles. We had no idea words on the pages we read would soon become too small to see. And we especially had no idea we would be the "older" generation in a blink of an eye.

When I look back, I realize we should have seen it coming. After all, although it was hard to believe, our parents had once been our age. But when you're 22, it's unimaginable to believe that in a wink of an eye, you too would grow up (and out).

One of the biggest changes on the farm -- as well as our lives -- has been technology.

When hubby and I graduated from college, computers were the size of the average person's living room. The closest thing to today's computer was an electric typewriter and an endless supply of Whiteout. GPS was an abbreviation for Grandpa's ... as in Grandpa's house. Facebook would have been a book about, well, faces. A mouse was actually a rodent, and when we said "desktop" we meant the top of an actual desk. A hard drive was a 13-hour car ride with two toddlers and a teenager. ("Mom, make him stop -- he's looking at me."

Telephones were anything but mobile. With the phone, attached by a lovely, curly cord, mobility was limited to about 10 feet. For my toddler, a few minutes of Mom on the phone meant freedom to explore, climb, touch and taste as fast as his little legs could move. It was a sad day for him when I finally got a cordless phone.

Without cell phones, we actually had to communicate with each other before we left for the day. As in: "Honey, I'm going to the store after work and won't be home until after 7 p.m." Or from hubby: "I'll be working the Smith place today and probably won't quit until after dark."

If our vehicles broke down or got stuck we actually had to walk to the closest house and telephone.

We could go on vacation and unless there was an emergency (and we actually left the name of a hotel) we would have no idea what was going on at the farm. There was no Facebook or Internet. No texting, no Twitter and certainly no Instagram.

When our oldest was 9 months old, the three of us spent three days in a cabin in Bennett Springs with no television, phone or even a radio. Hard to believe, but not only did we survive, we had a good time. On our last family vacation a few years ago, panic set in if our phones were out of tower range for more than 7.3 minutes. After all, texting isn't a luxury, it's a right -- and not knowing the weather at home when you are 1,000 miles away can cause severe mental stress.

Technology on the farm has helped us in so many ways. A cell phone can and has saved lives and even limbs in farm accidents. It saves time on a breakdown and more than once has saved a five-mile hike.

GPS (as in Global Positioning System) and other tools mean farmers save costs and the environment with variable rate fertilizer, seed and chemicals.

Of course, as with every advancement in history, there are drawbacks. Some might see the changes as improvement and others might not. When cars were invented transportation became easier, but small towns became less relevant and cities became larger. Blacksmiths became outdated and were replaced by auto mechanics. Horse manure was replaced by exhaust fumes. Infrequent buggy accidents were replaced by thousands losing their lives daily to traffic accidents.

Today, talking on the phone is being replaced by texting. (And the word "are" is being replaced by "r") Checking up on neighbors is being replaced by Facebook, and carrying your loved ones' pictures in your wallet is being replaced by snapshots on our cell phones.

Sometimes I'm glad of the advancements. Other times I miss the good ol' days of dinner conversations without phones and car rides with games such as "slugbug," instead of video games on an iPad. But most of all I wonder what the next 30 years will bring. After all, for my sons and those just starting adulthood, the 'good ol' days' are right now.

As for me, I'm hoping for self-cleaning kitchens, disposable farm clothes, dust-free roads, rural pizza delivery and climate change of endless spring temperatures for Missouri. Ahhh, the good new days ...