Go Green?

John Walter Updated: 07/30/2010 @ 1:32pm

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the cornfield.”

– Dwight Eisenhower

This old saw about farming from afar is something to take to heart when writing about green agriculture. Sometimes it seems like everybody off the farm thinks he or she knows how agriculture ought to be done.

This green issue of Successful Farming magazine is an attempt to get our pencils closer to the cornfield, so to speak.

The batch of stories inside were informed first by farmer experience. We editors then took three additional steps to involve farmers:

  • We let farmers pick the cover based on three different slants on the green theme (see cover prospects at right).

  • We listened to farmers talk about environmental topics in the electronic coffeeshop of Internet forums. There were about a dozen new green discussions on Agriculture.com when this idea was conceived. Those farmers influenced a lot of the early thinking on whether to pursue this theme.

  • We polled farmers for their opinions. A number of surveys were posted on the website seeking to glean farmers’ views on issues such as conservation tillage, cover crops, and precision ag. If we had our minds made up about what direction our stories should take, we could have been swayed by a well-worded, forcible remark in an Agriculture.com discussion group, for example.

Laurie Potter, Successful Farming Deputy Machinery Editor, used both the polling tool and the discussion groups to try to dig into the issue of why farmers do or don’t adopt precision ag technologies.

“What I thought was interesting,” Potter notes, “were the two biggest concerns from farmers. They said technology was too expensive and their operations weren’t large enough.”

More than 400 farmers voted on the cover for this issue. The winner was the “Why Should You Go Green?” theme, with 42% of the vote. The returns possibly reflect the fact that a lot of farmers still have questions about what the whole green thing is all about and how it might affect their operations.

A case was made for the third cover by a farmer who wrote, “It reflects the real-world environment we live in. What we do, how we adopt is the real question on everyone’s mind, whether they agree with the ‘green’ mind-set or not.”

We hope you’ll find that the stories inside this issue represent all three angles to the green world as illustrated on the cover prospects: what is it, how you can profit from the trend, and what it mean for your farm in the future.

Finally, when we talk about pencils in the context of a green world, they’re the kind that sharpen understanding of nature and agriculture.

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