Tucked away on 200 acres on a county road near the Elkhart – Kosciusko county line is the future of American agriculture: the state of the art Trupointe agronomy hub. Impressive in its size and sophistication, this multimillion dollar facility represents what real agricultural production is and will need to be in order to meet the production and profit requirements of real farmers. This is a place where Michael Pollan and Dr. Oz have never been and represents farming on a scale they have never conceived. This is farming that produces the food that most people eat, but farming that is far removed from the concepts most consumers hold of how their food is produced and of the people who produce it.
Many consumers are unaware of the scale on which many farms operate today. They envision a 50 acre homestead that a farmer operates with his family. While these farms do exist, the majority of the food that feeds this nation and the world is produced by a comparatively small number of larger farms, consisting of several thousand acres spread over several counties and operated by a well-trained workforce. These operations are often mistakenly criticized as “big corporate farms,” when , in reality, they are run by family members who have incorporated to better manage their business. While big has a negative connotation when it comes to farming, consumers enjoy the benefits large scale agriculture in the form of better food variety, a dependable food supply, regulated food safety, and affordable food prices.
Anyone who has ever planted a garden or grown a flower in a pot understands the concept of putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow. This is their level of understanding of how farmers farm for many consumers and critics of modern agriculture. A visit to the Trupointe hub will reveal the level of sophistication used by farmers today to produce the yields needed to meet the demands of the marketplace. From stacked seed traits to custom blended fertilizers and plant nutrients, farmers and their suppliers can create a tailored combination that matches the soil and environmental characteristics of an individual field. With the Trupointe system, a specially trained consultant can stand with a grower in his field and order a custom blend of fertilizers or plant nutrients, specifically chosen for the soil type and crops being grown. The consultant then places the order on his wireless tablet, and it is sent instantly to the hub where the order is put together, loaded on a truck and on its way to the field in a matter on minutes. Environmental activists criticize farmers for this type of technology; however, it is this level of sophistication that is reducing farming’s environmental impact while not reducing its productive capacity.
So many of those who pontificate against agriculture are totally clueless about the real agricultural production system in use today or what it will take to keep us all fed and clothed tomorrow. The challenge will be to keep these neophytes and regulators from wrecking a system that is our hope for the future. This is not to say that small farms and special types of farms do not have a place, they do. But the old 80/20 rule applies here, 80% of the food is produced by 20% of the farms. Despite what is said in some quarters, this is not a bad thing. Lots of uninformed windbags blow a lot of bad air about big ag, yet big ag is amazing in its scale, complexity, and efficiency. It is what gives me hope for the future of food production in an environment of diminishing land and water resources.
By Gary Truitt