Everyone has heard of the “Learning Curve”.  This principle of added productivity and value over an axis of experience sure holds true in farming.  As a young farmer gains experience and knowledge, his/her profitably increases because of the added productivity of the land farmed or the machinery operated. 

  This year is a huge learning experience for me, learning to grow wheat is a whole new world compared to hay, and the learning curve is apparent even in my fields.  The first field I worked and planted is pretty rough and the yields will be as good as the last field I planted.   I had to learn the limitations of my equipment, which were quite apparent once I got into the heavy sod.   After equipment, the next subject was irrigation and fertilizer timing.  Although we have a field man from the fertilizer and spray company, we had to learn when to spray and when to hit the wheat with liquid fertilizer to get our protein levels.  We won’t know our mistakes until harvest, but I am pretty sure I was early on the fertilizer on a field and late on one.  Hopefully my protein levels won’t be too low because of my inexperience. Once the seed was planted, a whole new phase of learning kicked in.  Irrigation timing, weed control, I saw how a frost froze the tips off of about 10 acres of heads.  Just a plethora of small details that I witnessed will be hugely beneficial to me later in my agriculture career.

A farmer needs knowledge to grow the crop, but a farmer also needs to know the right people and have relationships developed with the marketers of the crop.  This is where I think established farms have such a huge advantage over young, beginning farmers like me.  I can research and find a huge amount of information on crops, but I can’t research a seed contract, a relationship with the local feedlot to market my hay, or a relationship with the bank lender.  established farms have established markets, and that in my opinion is worth even more than the knowledge to grow the crop. 

Now the learning curve is in fact a curve, and I have seen where the productivity and value of a farmer drops with age and complacency.  This is where I see the biggest opportunity for young farmers.  Sometimes farmers get stuck in a rut growing the same rotation of crops they have been doing for years. It may have worked in the past, but with newer technology and innovation, the old plan is no longer as profitable or relevent in today’s market.