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CCFB News» April 2021

At the Farm GatePhones Planted like Pliers in Farmer Pockets

04/04/2021 @ 10:00 am | By Joanie Stiers

I still remember the spring when an unnamed farmer attempted to grow a crop of cell phones.


While outside the tractor cab in the field, he had dropped then driven over his two-week-old cell phone twice. Once with a planter and soon after with a tillage implement that placed it subsurface like a seed.


The soil rang. He found the phone. The dirty flip phone (this was 2009) could dial the local equipment dealership with a breakdown. However, the shattered screen left him unable to read a text message about the commodity markets. A new phone soon suspended from a bungee cord on his collar, safe keeping for a device that farmers, like most Americans, find too important to go without.


Cell phones, and specifically smartphones, have arguably surpassed the importance of pliers to the daily farmer attire. The tool has yet to tightly wire a gate, but it wields the power to access everything from local weather to global agriculture markets at our sometimes-soiled fingertips.


Grandpa, who farmed with literal horsepower in childhood, never imagined a handheld device could text and email business partners and display instant radar images, yet function as a flashlight. Remotely, we can control the grain dryer and monitor the solar array’s energy production. Apps on the device deliver field-by-field rainfall totals, timely agriculture podcasts and virtual farm teleconferences. Smartphones grant rural families the conveniences any modern American families employ, such as online shopping, restaurant pickup orders, voice-guided navigation and live virtual access to anything allowed.


From the bleachers at a home basketball game, my daughter and I watched a calf’s birth via live video footage from barn cameras at the home farm. We found true delight in witnessing the little heifer stand within 30 minutes and gallop about the straw in another 10.


The smartphone provides our camera, calendar and calculator. It replaced the dinner bell for summoning family members from the barnyard and, quite precisely, can track their location out in the fields. It provides a hotpot for homework, a device to fill downtime and an app to identify constellations on a starry summer night.


The future likely will bring more exciting conveniences and practical uses, but for now, a key function on our farm remains conversation, both business and social. The same phone that calls the local grain elevator to market corn also orders the Sunday night pizza. It texts a question about production records and reaches relatives seldom seen when planting season peaks, assuming no one plants the device and needs a replacement.


About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.

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