Farm Horizons, June 2013

How do you use the Internet?

By Myron Oftedahl
Farm Business Management Instructor, South Central College

There are many ways to use the Internet in your farm operation. Do you look at daily grain quotes? Have you used it to look for parts or equipment? Are you a chat room user? Do you use it for weather reports or current news?

The Internet is a powerful tool. Yes, a tool that needs to be learned, and you need to have some control.

Remember when you got a CB radio for your farming operation, which transferred to VHF and UHF radios, and we thought that this was really neat? I didn’t have to chase someone down in the back-40 in order to ask a question, I could just ask over the radio. It meant that a few other people on the same channel could hear the conversation, too, but then cell phones came along and solved that issue. Do any of you still use the two-way radios?

The Internet is going through some of the same growth. I can look at a parts diagram to see which way a piece of machinery goes back together, or I can print the page and take it with me to the dealer in order to get the right parts. Or, better yet, I can order the parts right off the computer. I can look for a particular piece of machinery across the entire country or bid on an auction right from my office. In fact, in just a few short years, the auction business went from about 10 percent online and 90 percent live auctions, to currently 90 percent online and 10 percent live.

I can bring up a weather map and forecast at any time of the day; I don’t need to wait for the 6 p.m. news, or try to stay awake for the 10 p.m. news.

Most grain dealers now have a website, where they can look at the current quotes and basis levels. Or, I can look for information about a certain topic, such as nrcs.usda, for information about the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), or the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

I have found myself going to the Internet more often if I am looking for information about how to do something. For example, the other day I was trying to figure out how to build a set of steps. This is especially true now that my dad has died; he was my source for carpentry information.

If I have a canning or gardening question, I will ask Mom first.

So, will the Internet replace those sources of information that we have with our parents, aunts, and uncles? I hope not, because those human connections are important for both parties. Sure, you can still check if they aren’t sure, but don’t let the Internet replace your connection with your family or other trusted advisors.

Who do you ask if you have a question concerning your farming operation? Your fertilizer/chemical dealer, the vet, your banker, your Farm Business Management (FBM) instructor?

You have cultivated those relationships and invested time, effort, and money into them. The live person also knows the intracacies with your operation.

What works for a farm in Stearns County or Missouri may need to be adjusted to work on your farm. Your finances may dictate one avenue over another. Your set-up may not work well with a given solution that you may find on the Internet.

So, yes, the Internet is a powerful tool for your farming operation, but I don’t believe that it will replace Dad, Mom, or that trusted advisor. It is just like several other tools you have. You could use a pliers or a box-end wrench to remove that bolt, but which will do the job the best? You have the control to choose.

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