Future of Farming: The Next Generation
Shady Lodge Farms – Finding Your Place in Farming
By: Julia Ruiz, Michigan Corn Intern
On Thursday, September 2nd, 2021, I had the opportunity to speak with Ross Meyer who works at Shady Lodge Farm in Lansing, MI. Ross is like family over at Shady Lodge Farm and has been working there since he was in high school. He always had the intention of farming after graduating high school and that is exactly what he did. Ross also owns some land of his own and between both farms, they grow corn, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa. Throughout his time as a farmer, he has been able to see a lot of change come to agriculture and Shady Lodge has done its part to flow with those changes.
Shady Lodge, and Ross, have witnessed much change over the years. One of the biggest changes that they have seen has been centered on technology. Technology is ever-changing, and it can only be expected to continue to progress as the years go on. Regarding this technological advancement, one of the more beneficial changes that Ross has experienced is the advancements in mapping; this includes things like yield maps, application maps, and planting maps. Instead of having to lay out the information manually to find patterns, he can process all the information using software on a single iPad. This helps correlate the maps and information to help them make better decisions for the following year based on. Overall, this helps save time and energy that can be better spent elsewhere.
Sustainability is also a key aspect of farming, and even though we know farmers are doing their due diligence to ensure the preservation of their land, it is always great to get an overview of these practices to share with others. Over at Shady Lodge, Ross mentions that some of the practices that they do include soil testing every other year, maintaining sustainable water management practices, and doing their best to use minimal tillage. Shady Lodge is also MAEAP verified!
The term “sustainable agriculture” has been a hot topic in the public eye, but those who don’t live on farms often don’t have a full understanding of what farmers do. For example, an average consumer may drive by a field and see a large machine spraying something on the field, which they assume are always pesticides – but many times this is simply water. This misunderstanding shows how far we must go to ensure the public truly understands what farmers are doing out there in the fields every day. From a farmer’s standpoint, if Ross could share just a few things with the public to educate them he would say, “as a farmer you want to take care of the land the best you can because it is your livelihood…the next generation always leaves it better than the one that had it before.”
Being a farmer is certainly not all rainbows and sunshine, farmers endure a lot of stress every day on the job. Ross tells me that one of the biggest stressors boils down to choices; “You can make 100 choices in a day, and you don’t know which one of them is the right one.” There are always a lot of variables to consider that will affect the outlook of a farm, the major one being Mother Nature. Although there can be challenges to being a farmer, there are many upsides to the job as well. For Ross, his favorite part of farming is being able to watch a crop grow. He reflects on his time in high school when he could not get out of school soon enough so that he could rush over to the farm to work. The passion has certainly been prevalent for him since he was a kid.
The future of farming can be a daunting concept to have to think about because it can seem that things are always changing or advancing. Ross predicts that in the next 25 years we will continue to see advancements in technology, especially regarding drone usage. Another impact he sees occurring is the continued expansions of housing across farmland. More and more land is being taken out of farming every year to build homes and this is likely to lead to problems for farmers that have any rented land. With these variables up in the air, Ross still speaks fondly of farming and could not imagine doing anything else. His advice for those looking to get their start as a young farmer boils down to a few ideas; be ambitious, love the work you do, and look for opportunities. Once you can bring these three concepts together, you will find your place in farming.