Innovation is an important piece to any successful agriculture operation. Often when individuals think of innovation, they think of technological advancements, but that isn’t always the case. Meet Vaughn and Ben Johnson, Alcester farmers, who are great examples of how the definition of innovation can be extended beyond electronics. “We try to use things that work, and if it stops working we try the next best thing. We always try to keep up with new chemicals and fungicides, a lot of times, we utilize our agronomist, Tyson Martinmaas, when deciding what to try next,” said Ben Johnson. Ben and his father, Vaughn, have cultivated a legacy of adaptability and progress, using technology in every facet of their operation to ensure a thriving future for generations to come.
Ben is currently the 5th generation farming their Alcester-based operation. Vaughn, who was raised on the farm, raised his own children there, including Ben, who now follows in his father’s footsteps. “There’s always an opportunity and it’s a great place to raise a family,” (Vaughn). Currently, Vaughn and Ben’s operation spans over 3,200 acres, including custom acres. The two men are committed to embracing new technology to help secure their legacy for future generations.
Farming's unpredictable nature demands constant decision-making, especially when it comes to adopting new technologies, “You’re never doing the same thing; there can be lots of ups and downs, depending on the markets and weather. There’s never a dull moment, and there’s always new technology to discover and learn how to use,” (Ben). Navigating the unpredictability comes with a lot of decision-making, including decisions about technology. Everyone has their own set of factors they consider when making these tough calls, “Price and effectiveness are the two biggest deciding factors. Sometimes we give it a few years to see how the technology works, and then we will give it a try. Other times will try something on part of a field and then the next year try a little bit more,” (Ben). Innovative products can be hard to adopt, but by introducing new products little by little, the Johnsons are able to successfully integrate new technology onto their farm and efficiently adapt to ever changing conditions. For example, “We’re trying Voyagro a stress products, that Tyson suggested on 40 acres of our field, if it proves successful, we will likely try more next year.” The Johnson’s are a great example of how adopting new practices a little at a time can be incredibly effective.
Farming has always come with challenges that growers have had to overcome; these challenges evolve with the generations. When considering the challenges of now and of the next generation, Vaughn sees a future where managing people becomes just as critical as hands-on farming, “You’re always trying to find people to help out and make sure the tractor keeps running during planting and harvesting; as the next generation comes in, I think it’ll become more about managing people than it is about being a hands-on farmer.” Even though this may seem to be a daunting task, it is far from impossible. Technology can be a key part of the solution, by lessening the need for extra hands with more efficient equipment.
Public perception of agriculture poses its own challenge, but the Johnsons see it as an opportunity to showcase their management practices and commitment to sustainability. Once
again, this may be an opportunity to use technology to better agriculture. For example, farmers are beginning to utilize drones in a way that allows a lessening of products being sprayed on the field, “Using drones to spot spray has some of these advantages, such as not having to use as much chemical and you will be able to fly the drone over the field so that you can see the entire field,” (Ben). This is a great opportunity to display the strides toward conservation and sustainability that farmers are taking. This also has the potential to cut back on costs, increasing their return on investment (ROI).
Chemical innovation is constantly evolving, “Better chemicals that don’t need to be sprayed all the time and having the ability to spot spray will be an exciting technological addition,” Vaughn. Technology can help farmers be more effective and efficient while conserving valuable resources. The Johnsons understand that innovation extends beyond technology alone. By leveraging resources offered by Farmers Coop Society, such as grain meetings, shared labor programs, and expert agronomist guidance from Tyson, they maximize the potential of their operation.
The remarkable journey of Vaughn and Ben Johnson embodies the true essence of innovation in agriculture. Their unwavering commitment to progress, combined with the strategic use of technology and resources, sets them on a path to sustained success. As they navigate the unpredictable landscapes of farming, they epitomize the resilience and vision necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Farmers Coop Society proudly stands by their side, providing unwavering support and innovative solutions to help them optimize their operation. Together, they embody the spirit of innovation that will shape the future of farming for generations to come.