Hitched to the Universe - Earth Day 2016

April 21, 2016

Hitched to the Universe - Earth Day 2016

I love this quote from John Muir, particularly as Earth Day 2016 is upon us and folks everywhere are taking a step back to assess their place on the planet.  

“When you try to remove one single thing, you find it’s hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir, founder Sierra Club, advocate for national parks and conservation. 

On our farms and ranches, Earth Day is every day and is never about one single thing. Our livelihoods, our farms, our businesses are directly linked to the health of our natural resources – on our farm that refers to soil and water.  

On our farm, we use the latest in “tractor technology” to bolster our efforts in soil and water care.  For example, our John Deere 2630 Display is a touch screen computer that holds the maps and information about every field we farm. Each piece of equipment has its own screen.  The computers ‘talk’ to each other sharing information about our fields.  The homepage shows a map of the fields, its boundaries and the location of any waterways and fencerows. 


The equipment runs on RTK, which stands for real-time kinetic.  It uses satellites and a base station, which acts like a cell phone tower, to guide the equipment through fields with “sub-inch accuracy repeatability”.  Fancy terminology that means when my husband comes back to this field to cultivate, plant, fertilize and harvest, the equipment will follow the same paths within centimeters.  The same path can be repeated next year and the year after and the year after.  In this way we are essentially farming each square foot individually vs. treating the whole 80 or 100 acres as one unit.  We can control the amount of fertilizers and or pesticides applied, the number of seeds planted, and even learn how many bushels came from that tiny space.  

But all the tractor technology in the world won’t save soil or conserve water.  So we combine this with no-till and minimum till, cover crops and our new efforts to track soil moisture.  Soil probes placed in various fields wirelessly transfer information back to our computers giving us real-time guidance to our irrigation decisions.  All these things come together to give us the best opportunity to improve upon yesterday.  No single thing creates success on a farm.  Everything is most certainly hitched together.

Katie Pratt

Andy and Katie Pratt Dixon, IL

Katie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers. Together they raise two farm kids and grow corn, soybeans and seed corn in Illinois. Katie's family still raises cattle and row crops only a few minutes away. Katie was named one of the 2013 Faces of Farming and Ranching by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Read more from Katie on her blog, The Illinois Farm Girl.

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