Though Dr. W.E. Taylor’s book, Soil Culture and Modern Farm Methods, is nearly 100 years old, it contains many practical tips that still apply today. This is the fifth of 5 blog posts on this subject.
5. The need to pursue knowledge and innovation
For some reason the label “dumb farmer” has been attached to many of those whose life work is a farmer. The reasons why can only be speculated. The best guess is that many farmers never went to college and may have even missed out on a substantial amount of high school working on the farm. This truth could lead the well-educated to think that farmers are not smart and lack the ability to run a profitable business, but this simply is not the case for all farmers.
If Dr. Taylor’s book does anything, it proves that farmers need to keep up with the latest research and ideas in order to keep up with the changes in agriculture and the economy at-large. His book is filled with charts proving that farmers need to pay attention to crop and milk production and how this production is affected by factors controlled by the farmer such as fertilizer and feed rations. A mismanaged farm will lose profits and be more affected by changing prices at the markets.
Much of what farmers learned about farming came from how their parents farmed. Dr. Taylor’s book likely challenged many of the beliefs of farmers because it was different than they were taught. Farmers would be forced to look at what they were doing and make adjustments.
As Taylor wrote his book, farming was at a turning point. Mechanization replaced laborers and factory farms began replacing family farms. World War I had not yet begun. When it did, prices rose dramatically with the increase of demand for food in Europe. When the war ended, a surplus resulted and prices plummeted. Many farmers were forced to foreclose as they were unable to pay their debts from the borrowing they did during the war to get tractors and other machinery.
There are many factors that determined what farms survived the economic depression of the 1920s and 1930s, but it is clear that a pursuit of knowledge could only help cushion the blow. Farmers needed to be willing to adjust and find their competitive advantage because the economics of agriculture were always changing and being unaware of a better way of doing things could ultimately undermine the ability for a farm to prosper. Farmers are business owners and understanding the business of farming is just as big a part of farming as shoveling manure or milking a cow.
Over the past 5 blog posts, I looked at 5 practical tips from Dr. W.E. Taylor’s Soil Culture and Modern Farm Methods. We have learned the importance of clean water, pure air, germ management, profit management, and the pursuit of knowledge. There are many more avenues that could have been explored, but these all highlight one key part of farming — lifelong learning.