YORKTON - When you have grown up on a farm in the 1960s and ‘70s it is almost beyond belief the changes in farming we see today.
It was a mixed farm for me, and that meant pigs and grain.
In my youth I hauled a lot of ground grain to feed the pigs using cleaned five-gallon pails that originally were filled with some weed spray, or another.
Looking back over some 40-years it seems like it was such a crazy thing, but repurposing the pails was pretty standard. I’m pretty sure potatoes came from the garden to the cellar bin in similar pails.
Of course I clearly recall Dad taking plugged nozzles off the sprayer, his gloves getting soaked in the process, and then simply blowing out the nozzle with his breath.
Knowing what we do now it’s a wonder what health problems were caused in a time we didn’t know better, or were reluctant to change. Dad lived to a considerable age, his heart giving out one day, but one wonders.
The world of farming then was of course so different it’s perhaps not fair to compare.
Pig pens on many farms were still cleaned with a fork, shovel and wheelbarrow, and bedded after with straw – another job I actually minded less than you might expect as I liked being around the stock.
It was the same in terms of how crops were grown. Summer fallow was still the norm, half the land sitting fallow every year, growing weeds that were killed by more tillage, but not generating production to sell.
Today, continuous cropping is the norm, and in the process of putting added acres into crop production, topsoil doesn’t blow away as it did in my youth.
That is the thing about farming, it is always evolving.
Sure a combine today still has a passing resemblance to the one my Dad and neighbours used, but the size and technology is vastly different. It’s like my Dad used a biplane and today farmers fly stealth jets.
I recently read about dairy farmers using satellite imagines to improve management of pastures. Suddenly there is picture data behind moving cows to a new pasture, just not following a long term pattern.
Of course when I was young rotational grazing to maximize pastures was just in its infancy in terms of being a widely accepted practice.
Of course change is not new in farming.
My grandfather farmed with horses, binders and threshing machines, living long enough to see even bigger combines, and a man walking on the moon.
We are no longer farmers, this is my connection to the sector now, but I do wonder what farming might look like as my son hits his 60s in a few scant decades?
Farms will still no doubt produce food, but how they do that will certainly be different than it is today.