This article was written by Kinsie Rayburn, Conservation Knowledge Officer for Trust In Food. Learn more at trustinfood.com.
Every farm has a story. Some are first-generation operations while others have been in business for centuries. However rich that farming tradition might be, even more can be added to your story documenting the true value of your farm assets with the data you capture—about weather, soil preparation, planting, input decisions, applications and harvest.
Increasingly, farmers seeking long-term financial and legacy benefits will also need to capture conservation practice data as conservation of soil, water and other resources provide for long-term viability of the operation. As your operation passes from one generation to the next, precision technology and farm management software can generate a rolling storyline that ensures each successive farm leader has the insights needed to grow profitability, steward environmental resources and report to business partners and customers.
Putting Data To Work For Your Legacy
Imagine your farm has been managed by your family for three or four generations. Across that time, you’ve identified areas of the farm that are unproductive and each generation has tried to farm that land yet those acres just aren’t as high-yielding as the rest.
When data are collected on each year’s efforts to increase productivity, future generations won’t have to retread old ground. That’s because they will have proof points about which practices have been tried, which worked and which fell short. This then frees the next generation to try a new approach.
Additionally, if some acres consistently lose money, you might be able to restore greater profitability by converting them to a conservation plan that includes practices such as a buffer area, pollinator habitat or even an easement.
The longer you collect data on your operation, the more valuable that data becomes. For example, the next generation of farmers will benefit through:
• Improved agronomic decision-making based on the history of the farm
• Increased modeling and prediction capabilities based on historical weather trends and crop performance
• Preparedness to meet the needs of buyers who require production practice information
Additionally, capturing historical data improves the value of the operations, allowing future generations to continue to build knowledge and use insights to take advantage of the latest technology and innovation. They will be able to evaluate efficiencies that might be gained, improving profitability or lowering costs compared to historical trends.
If you are not using any farm management software today, consider starting this season. If you are interested in ways to get started, check out Getting Started with Data. If you already collect and use data on your farm, consider helping other farmers take the next step by sharing how you got started, how data benefits your operation, and ways you put data to work for you.
This article is part of a three-part series about the direct farmer benefits of capturing and using farm-level data. The first article, The Benefits of Data: An Overview, covers some general benefits of farm-level data collection such as profit mapping and input modeling. The second article, Making Farm Data Pay, covers some of the economic benefits of data collection. The third covers the Legacy Benefits of Data. You can find these articles below and more about conservation agriculture on agweb.com/acam.
The insights in this article are based on original Trust In Food research conducted in spring 2020 in collaboration with Syngenta. The research focused on farmer perspectives about conservation agricultural practices. Trust In Food and Syngenta thank the farmers who participated in the study and are hopeful the information can help U.S. farmers continue to run profitable, efficient and sustainable operations.