In some parts of the world farming is a subsistence operation.
In others it’s carried out by employees on behalf of absentee landowners.
Here, more often than not farm owners are also farm workers.
They use their hands and get them dirty but they also use their heads and a lot of equipment designed and produced by other people who’ve used their heads.
This point is well-made by Jim Hopkins in his observations on the Southern Field Days:
The buzz from the boffins is that we’ve got to get high tech and whizzy. We must walk the Weta walk and talk the IT talk. Add value, head upmarket, tap into the cyber world. Farming is a sunset industry, old hat, old school, old world, prone to fouling pristine streams with incontinent cows.
There’s no point flogging milk and trees and meat and wool to the world. Commodities are so yesterday!
Except they’re not. They’re still how we pay two-thirds of our bills. And Field Days aren’t merely the heartland doing its thing. They’re also the head land, a place where much of that cutting-edge stuff so beloved of the policy analysts is actually on show. It’s just that they’re not looking.
Innovation and success go hand in hand.
Most farms these days are high-tech work places. The introduction of the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme will make livestock farms even more so.
There is some work that machines and gadgets will never replace on farms, the nature of the business will always require a lot of manual work. But now more than ever successful farms require a lot of head work – on the farm and from the people and businesses which service and supply them – as well.