The sod farm supervisor and I went to get a bite to eat on a recent rainy Friday in Arlington and sat with one of his old friends from way back. (Everyone in Arlington is one of his old friends from way back. I don’t think there is anyone in that town he doesn’t know.)
Anyway, this farmer was talking about his newest tractor. It comes with a GPS navigator and he said he can literally put it on cruise control and just sit there while the tractor does the driving. He has to make one pass manually to get it going and then he sets the on board computer to do the rest. He couldn’t believe how perfectly straight it stays to the first row he plants. And it works on curves and terraces, too. He says a bell goes off when he gets a few feet from the end row and he has to manually turn it around, but once the direction change is complete, the tractor takes over, lines itself up and continues the work. He said he got his whole 60 acres planted and wasn’t even tired at the end of the day. At this rate, it won’t be long before the whole job can be done by remote control from the living room!
He said he’d heard a story of a farmer who fell asleep and didn’t hear the bell go off, so he wound up bouncing through a ditch and onto a highway.
You probably think GPS navigation is something new to farming, but have you ever seen a draft team at work? I once visited and Amish community and we just sat on the road and watched them work. They can even get themselves turned around at the end of the row without a bell going off!
And that reminds me of a story I heard about an incident that took place during the blizzard of 1888. It seems a fellow who farmed near Lyons, NE went to town that morning on horseback and was still in town when the storm hit. Well, it happened that the mare he rode that day had been blind from birth, so he gave her her head and she got him home in the midst of the storm, when so many others got lost or stranded trying to see their way through the blinding snow. Talk about built in GPS! Horses have had it all along. And at no extra charge.