Farmers and cell phones

I don’t really use my cell phone all that much (just don’t show this post to my wife, she would not agree at all!).  Other than a call to coordinate something,  get or give some quick help with something, etc.  I just find a cell phone annoying.  I don’t have one of those fancy bluetooth things that lets me talk hands free.  When I want to talk about something important, my very much preferred method is to try to set up a time to talk, than adjust my work schedule so that I’m fairly free at that time (I’ve been told I don’t multi-task well!) This works with varying degrees of success.   I’ve learned by attempting to do this, that most people find this annoying at best.  Just pick up the phone and give me a call Darin!  I can’t do that well, when I have one of those “let’s change the world” or at least “let’s talk AGAIN about this pesky, little, continually re-occurring problem”) I really like to do so with some advanced notice, a little time to think about it, etc.  I’m quickly learning that most people neither need or want that.

Farmer on cell phone.. No, that is not me!

I’m was reminded of this Wednesday evening.  I was on a scheduled conference call, supposed to include three other farmers. One farmer was taking care of his animals from an open-cab tractor, another was in the grain cart tractor, harvesting this falls crop.  The third farmer had told my prior to the meeting he would be in the milk barn.  he didn’t make it, something about having to deal with new calves / fresh cows, certainly enough of a challenge without a bothersome phone!  Me?  I was happily sitting in the office, staring at a computer screen – sometimes I feel so inadequate as a farmer!

What this really makes me wonder is how did we get along before the days of cell phones?  I do remember when my wife and I got married there was no such things (Hey!  it wasn’t THAT long ago!).  I don’t remember when I actually got my first phone, I do remember it was pretty much just a phone, it made calls, that was all.  It did not get email, if it did text messages I didn’t know how to do that, it did not play games, browse the internet, or cook supper (really?  your phone doesn’t do that?).  Now, the latest phone from Apple has the magical ability to be your “personal assistant”   (Ha, that cook supper thing really wasn’t as far-fetched as you thought!!)

What I am really waiting for is that “farmer” version of Siri.  You know something that all I have to do is shoot a picture of a weed or bug, and instantly I have complete access to world wide knowledge of everything known about the pest.  Or maybe I simply say “Siris, where should I sell corn today”  and instantly get back various bids from the area with different options depending on how far I want to drive, etc.  Or something like “I’d like to slightly increase the amount of hay I’m feeding in this ration” and get a new feed ration perfectly balanced to continue providing optimum nutrition for the cattle.

Mostly what would be really nice is to say “Hey Siris, can you go chore this evening, I’d like to finish these dozen new levels of Angry Birds”  Technology can do such wonders for our productivity!

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8 responses to this post.

  1. “What I am really waiting for is that “farmer” version of Siris. You know something that all I have to do is shoot a picture of a weed or bug, and instantly I have complete access to world wide knowledge of everything known about the pest. Or maybe I simply say “Siris, where should I sell corn today” and instantly get back various bids from the area with different options depending on how far I want to drive, etc. Or something like “I’d like to slightly increase the amount of hay I’m feeding in this ration” and get a new feed ration perfectly balanced to continue providing optimum nutrition for the cattle.”

    In case it is of interest, cell phones are being used very similarly to what you describe in Africa http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/how-mobile-phones-are-transforming-african-agriculture/8704/. They are, in fact, being used in a whole bunch of social programs, which seems to me to re-locate power and decisionmaking with the people who are most affected by social and economic programs, e.g. http://digitallearningafrica.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=128%3Amobiles-for-development-in-africa-the-soul-beat-&catid=64%3Aprojects-and-case-studies&showall=1

    Reply

    • Stephanie, those are some really interesting links.. One of the things that intrigues me about technology is the way that when given access with no existing infrastructure often times the developing world seems to leap ahead in actual application and use, there are no old habits to break! Thanks so much for sharing

      Reply

      • If the technology makes sense, and builds upon what exists, and accords with what’s important in a local context, then it works in some really interesting way. If it is imposed and access is controlled from on high, it can be authoritative and destructive. Glad you liked the links.

  2. Once again, this Android user might be a little jealous.

    Reply

  3. Posted by howard on October 22, 2011 at 2:40 am

    While reading your post Darin, It occurred to me that even the simplest cell phone capabilities allowed one major improvement. Family. I rented a farm house in Michigan for many years from an elderly dairy farmer. If my memory serves, it was in the early 1980’s or so. As a renter of one of oh, I think 7-8 different homes this man rented out, we all understood too well one of the reasons John gave us all such wonderful rental fees and agreements. I was one of the original “cells” of a farm based “cell phone service!”. Over the years, John had purchased smaller farms (or cells!)surrounding his as they availed themselves for one reason or another. Obviously, he wanted the land, barns, silos etc for his growing concern. Then he would rent the houses cheaply to someone “he knew and trusted.” I would estimate however, that at least 10 times a month, his lovely wife or kids would call us and always say the same thing. “Howdy Howard, I “think” Johnny is out on your “lakey lot” (which was how the very back fields John worked on the area/cell included with the original purchase of the particular farm my rented home included.) When Johnny comes up outta there (he always ended up driving the tractor from the back fields to the road down the long driveway right past the house. Will you PU-LEASE run out and catch him and tell him – “fill in the blank!”. We always heard him coming out for 10 minutes before he actually trudged along the house on his way out. We would meet him in the driveway to relay the message. In a 7 year period, I remember just a few of the relays. “They took your daughter to the hospital an hour ago, your a grandpa! It’s a boy! Your mother, who was pushing 90 at the time, lived next to him in yet another separate home, wants all of her windows opened up today! That was always called the official first day of spring around there!” Please stop by on your way home and help her. And trust me, it HAD to be her boy, 65 year old Johnny, who just had to be the one to do that job! Once his son broke his arm, the vet was “a-waitin” to castrate or de-bud a few calves etc. The cows got out of this or that barn or field here or there, or just don’t forget that you all have to be over at — by 7pm tonight for dinner. Etc etc. And of course, this was repeated at the other “farms/cells” included in his “sprawl” when he was out by there or just lost and wandering!

    We always had a big annual group Christmas dinner for everyone renting, working, or just living out there in one of the homes. We all chipped in that year and bought him this HUGE cell phone that plugged right into any one of 5 different pieces of equipment he drive around. The “relay” request stopped almost immediately and every one of us found out just important they had been us. We wanted that phone back. We missed being a closer part of that big family. It was like they just didn’t need us any longer! 6 months or so later, I happened meeting his wife up town one day and asked her things were going. She just smiled at me, gave me a hug right there on the spot, and said that after 35 years of marriage, I finally have a “full-time husband and a part-time farmer!”. She LOVED to be able, after all of those years just to call her husband directly and communicate, or just talk to him.
    My first thoughts of “phones on the farm” was an old TV show Green Acres. Eddie Albert, or even Zsa Zsa would have to go outside and crawl up the telephone pole to call see where Mr. Kimball was. Why he was late again. He was the “extension office Rep” that just never quite could explain to Mr. Douglas why only about 4.2 percent of his crop actually came up out of the ground that year! Perhaps the very original father of sirri services!

    Just some phone/farm memories for you.

    Kindest regards,

    Howard

    Reply

  4. Your ideas made me grin because I was thinking of “What if’s?” and “Why not?i” of what you are saying and I was trying to creatively add my own fantasy about such innovations. I know, these ideas aren’t bad and impossible because everything in this world are capable to change and may become subjects to innovations. Technological advancements surely make humans live easier and cozier in this world. So, why not take it to alleviating farm-life? But of course, each one must take responsibility with this bestowed privileges.

    Reply

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