Cool Stuff? No, Much Needed Farm Stuff

Farmer Iron

Equipment and technology you need may appear frivolous to the casual observer but we know better.

Published on: December 13, 2011
Last weekend our friends at "60 Minutes", the long-running news magazine, featured a profile of Howard Buffett, son of Warren Buffett, and an Illinois farmer. It's a great profile, and you can watch it online too. His was the profile after Steve Kroft talked with President Obama.

Cool Stuff? No, Much Needed Farm Stuff
Howard Buffett gets the '60 Minutes' treatment, and shows what it takes to farm.

I've been lucky enough to meet Mr. Buffett (Howard, not Warren) and he's a passionate person about feeding the world as you can see in the profile. But one thing stood out for me was Leslie Stahl's observations when she got a ride in the cab of Buffett's combine.

She marveled that he had GPS-directed auto-steering, almost joking about it. Does that give the world the impression that farmers are using tech for tech's sake? For Buffett, who farms 1,500 acres, it's a very useful tool because it speeds harvest and improves his efficiency.

It got me thinking, though. So often people think that all the add-ons we put on tractors and combines are some kind of luxury, and we can be our own worst enemies. I remember in the 1970s when air conditioned tractor cabs were becoming the norm and people would joke about it.

Not sure about you, but most people like to have a nice work environment, no reason farming should be different. Today, we've got spacious cabs, GPS-directed steering, air conditioning, mp3 players (heck you can hook up your iPod in most of those cabs now), improved displays and simpler controls. And all if it makes your life easier since you have to spend more time in the cab.

And while I joked a bit about Deere's now refrigerator-equipped combine, I was told during that tour I took a few weeks back that most combines are going out with the refrigerator - it's not being thought of as an option. In fact, one factory employee told me you'd have to special order a combine without the fridge to avoid it.

Bigger crops, bigger farms and bigger equipment brings new meaning to rolling office when it comes to farm equipment. These bigger cabs with their training seats (other phrase prohibited by lawyers) and what appears to be acres of glass are necessary for long hours at the office.

I know that when I sit down to write I'm happy I have a comfortable office - it makes it all worthwhile.

As for Howard Buffett and Leslie Stahl - now that would have been fun, helping someone who knows very little about ag see how real farmers work.

Oh, and 60 Minutes was quick to point out how much in direct payments Buffett got for his farm - just a heads up on that future Farm Bill debate that's sure to make 2012 a real winner for ag.