Agriculture has come a long way in the last century.
It wasn’t too long ago that farmers walked behind teams of mules, horses or oxen to plow the ground, hay was cut with a sickle and cows were milked by hand. It was a social event for many farmers when threshing crews came to a community with their steam-powered machines.
Milk was stored in large cans and kept cool in a springhouse until a truck or wagon came around to take them to the local creameries so the milk could be processed.
It was just 200 years ago that 90 percent of the U.S. population lived on farms. Families produced their own food and, if they were lucky, they were able to barter with the country store owner for household staples with chickens, eggs and butter.
It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the use of tractors surpassed the use of horse or mule teams by farmers in the United States.
Today, only about 2 percent of the nation’s population is involved in production agriculture.  Gone are the days when almost everyone had a cow and a few chickens. How does 2 percent of the nation’s population provide for the remaining 98 percent? By becoming more efficient and improved technology.
Robotic milking parlors, drones flying above farms to check cattle, apps that monitor herd health and using satellites to plant crops have changed the way farmers do business today.  It’s still hard work, but today’s farmers have a few more options and “gadgets” they can utilize.
Imagine the response if you would have asked a farmer 50 years ago if they use GPS when planting their crops or if they had an app that helped manage their cowherd. I’m sure there would have been some puzzled looks.
With the vast majority of the nation’s population being non-farmers, farming practices are completely foreign ideas.
Even in our small towns in the Ozarks there is a large population that is three, or even four, generations removed from the farm. Their great-grandparents had a farm, but their grandparents moved to town and never looked back. I see it in my own extended family.
While the movement away from the farm has been common for generations, there is a new breed of “farmers” emerging.
These farmers are actually consumers who want to be a little more self-sustaining and they are beginning to understand the importance of agriculture in their daily live. The trend is catching on in many urban areas. Raising vegetables and back-yard chick coops are actually in vogue in some communities.
Some new farmers are taking it a step even further back to their roots by seeking heirloom varies of plants and animal breeds, and going with “all-natural” practices, which weren’t an “option” 200 years ago.
In an effort to encourage growth in agriculture, when a novice farmer or gardener asks for a little advice, give it to them. Be grateful they are willing to get back to their farming roots, even if it is just with a couple of chickens.
Hopefully their efforts will spawn a whole new generation of agriculturalists, and with the average age of the American farmer being 59 years of age, we’re going to need them.



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