By Kim Baldwin, CommonGround farmer volunteer
Originally a native of New Mexico, Kim is a teacher and has worked as a television news professional for PBS and NBC affiliates. Kim moved to Kansas to marry her husband, Adam, in 2010. With their two children, the family raises wheat, corn, popcorn, soybeans, grain sorghum and cattle.
In the last 30 years, a lot has changed about farming. Agriculture is advancing with the help of technology — just like many industries. Our farm’s philosophy is growth through innovation. In many cases, that means incorporating technology. We research, evaluate, test and calculate the return on investment on each new venture we try.
We’re currently testing aerial crop scouting on our fields using drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs). Drones can fly above our fields and use different imaging techniques to tell us how the crop is growing or if there are weed or disease problems in a field. It’s an interesting advancement, but we still need a crop consultant to help us. Our consultant literally walks through each field during the growing season to check progress up close.
In turn, this information helps us accurately select and apply herbicides, fungicides or pesticides as needed. We don’t like to apply these products without good reason. Every additional expense means there’s less profit at the end of harvest.
We have specialized equipment to spray products on our own, and we’ve incorporated some interesting technology here too. We have sections of nozzles that turn on and off as the machine runs to better target our chemical applications. Again, the goal is to spray just what’s needed to improve yields and crop quality.
Letter of the law
To drive the spray rig, the operator must be licensed, which involves additional education. I worked in New Mexico’s Department of Agriculture and have a great appreciation for the detailed regulations farmers must learn, understand and follow.
There are regulations in place to ensure the safety of the applicator and bystanders as well. My family, including my two young children, live next to our fields. I’m confident their father and grandfather following label recommendations and government regulations for our crops, consumers and our children’s safety.
The herbicides and pesticides themselves are part of the technology we use on the farm. Before selecting a product, we research each one. We ask questions from our suppliers, carefully read the product label and then follow directions.
I’ll admit I was surprised by how little chemical is typically used on a field. A large part of the mix is water. Depending on the product, the amount of herbicide used is less than a large soda per acre — the rest is water to disperse the chemical.
In fact, I owe my marriage, in part, to the benefits of computers connecting people. My husband and I met online. I was teaching in southwest Missouri when a friend dared me to join an online dating service. Moving to Kansas wasn’t part of my “plan,” but technology allowed me to connect with someone outside of my geographic boundaries.
In a similar way, I hope to forge friendships with people seeking to learn more about agriculture. We can use this platform to connect, answer questions and listen to each other. I’d love to hear your questions about our farm’s use of technology!