Heavenly Farm Report: How technology has changed farming

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Technology is always changing, especially in the farm industry. A local farmer in Woodford County has seen firsthand how it has evolved.

Kent Hodel said he’s been farming for about 50 years. Now his son Eric helps him manage their land called ‘Quarter Mile Farms’. They farm more than 1,100 acres, raise pure-bred sheep, and manage a hay and straw business.

“This time of year we are getting ready for spring planting,” said Eric Hodel.

He said they have tons of new technology at their disposal.

“The tractor will have GPS and auto guidance, or auto steer,” said Eric, “The planter will have auto drive and technology for placing the seed. It will have hydraulic down-force
and pressure to make sure that we are getting the seed placed at the right pressure into the ground. We even have clean sweeps to make sure we are removing the trash
and residue from last year before we get the seed into the ground.”

The Hodels said they can track data from their farm on their mobile devices, helping them monitor their needs and progress. Dad said it’s a big difference from the way it used to be.

“When I started 50 years ago we had 240 acres of ground and we thought that was sufficient, and it was at that time because we had livestock and a lot of other things to go with it. Now the farms have just grown with leaps and size. You have to have ground to justify buying a tractor like this. So you need a thousand, twelve hundred,or fifteen hundred acres to justify your costs,” said Kent Hodel.

That cost, Kent said is about $240,000-$400,000 for his new tractor. The first one he bought 50 years ago cost about $1,500.

His son remembers those stories.

“I remember the stories of the horse and wagon of corn that would leave this farm and go all the way into Peoria. I just think about how long that takes to drive a vehicle let alone a team of horses to haul a load of corn into the river. To now we are running a semi with a hopper bottom where we are taking a thousand bushels at a time and doing it in an hour round trip.”

Technology also monitors what the soil needs, so excessive chemicals are not added.

“It’s not about managing a field. it’s not even really about managing an acre, it’s about managing a square inch. we use precision technology to make sure we are getting
every seed to the best of our ability placed in every inch that we want it in that field. We are making sure that we have every inch managed from soil, fertilizer, chemical, and collecting that data throughout the growing season and harvest and taking that input and getting ready for the next year,” said Eric Hodel.

Yields are up and so is crop quality, thanks to genetics. Though the Hodels said it’s a business using generations of tradition to truly be successful.

“Technology isn’t the entire answer,” said Eric, “There is still a lot of practical judgement. There is a lot of getting into the dirt and checking and inspecting to see if everything is working correctly. Technology isn’t just ‘hey push the button and it just goes,’ you have to do the prep work to make sure everything
is up and running and ready to go.”

The Hodels said they save close to $5,000 on seed per year with the new tractor technology.

Molly Jirasek

Molly Jirasek

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