This pic is barley harvest. Look for pics like this to be accessible on your food, with a link to our farm website or facebook page. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, and farmers want them to know. We get little to no credit for the great food we produce, and frankly, we'd like a little recognition. My farm on a bottle of Budweiser, with an explanation that the barley was grown in Stephen, MN, and another pic and explanation that the hops came from somewhere in Washington. Or my farm on a can of navy beans. Farmers are so proud of their hard work, and a little recognition from consumers would be a nice pat on the back. Consumers want to know, farmers want to brag, and everyone supports each other.
It's 2015, the year Marty went into the future in Back to the Future II. We have the 3 DVD set of Back to the Future. And we even have the Lego set (which has the flux capacitor, but no nuclear power, and we don't know how to contact the Libyans). So no hoverboards, hovercrafts, and really bad fashion as the movie suggested, but it has prompted many people to start guessing what will happen in 30 to 40 years. I'm going to stick out my neck and make some predictions about agriculture in the year 2050. You can't tease me about how wrong I was for 35 years, so I feel pretty safe.
My first guess/wish is that machinery will actually get SMALLER. That's a complete turn around from where we've been for the past hundred years, but just picture every farm with 10 small, auto controlled tractors and implements. Instead of having 2 big tractors, with 2 people in each tractor, we'll have 10 small tractors, controlled from an office, doing fieldwork. Each morning farmers will decide what fieldwork needs to done, and tractors will go to those fields, and begin working. Those 2 people who used to drive the tractors, will now provide fuel (or maybe solar!), and maintenance to those machines. Maybe we can even get a little "scout" tractor to determine if the field is ready to be worked, or if there are wet areas that should be avoided. It would even be easier to share machinery with your neighbors. If they finish planting a few days before you, rent some of their little tractors, and finish your planting every faster. Admit it, sounds awesome.
Another idea is the specialization of farms, even more than we see today. It's quaint to discuss Old McDonald with his cows, pics, chickens, corn, wheat, and one horse, but Old McDonald is gone, and he's not coming back. There's just too much to know and learn to be that diverse! Livestock farmers know feed efficiency, and what will get their livestock to the ideal weight, with the least waste. Crop farmers know about insects, and disease, and weeds, and pests, and how to control them. It is a full time job to keep up on the latest research about leaf disease, soil fertilization, seed spacing, the list goes on and on. Now I'm supposed to add livestock topics to my list? No thanks. I'm already underwater, barely holding on. Every food product has its challenges for production, and farmers cannot be jack of all trades. I wouldn't know where to start if you dropped me at a California artichoke farm, or a Wisconsin cranberry farm. Stick with what you know, and do it well.
My final view into the future is for increased sustainability. That's a big buzzword today, but "sustainability" is a moving target. Every farm, since the beginning of time, has been focused on sustainability. While consumers want to talk about sustainable food, farmers NEED sustainable food. We need healthy soils, biodiversity, clean water, more than anyone else. It's not just for our lives, but for our livelihood. The catch is that sustainability is a moving target. We learn more and more every year about how to produce more with less. I am certain that in 2050, farmers will be even more efficient, and sustainable, than they are today.
This is what I get for majoring in agriculture economics at North Dakota State University. A farm near the Canadian border, far from any delivery restaurants or shopping centers. Sometimes in life you get nothing that you prayed for, and yet so much more than you asked. Life doesn't have to be easy to be wonderful and blessed.