Farming by the numbers

Missouri now has more farms than it did a year ago, according to the Farms and Land in Farms Summary released
Feb. 16 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In 2017, farms in the $100,000 to $249,999 economic sales class rose by 600—from 6,400 to 7,000—and average size for this type of farm increased from 609 acres to 614.

Unchanged at 44,500 were the farms that fall in the economic sales class of $1,000 to $9,999. However, all other classes of farms in the Show-Me State declined in number between 2016 and 2017, so the total number of farms increased only by 100 to 97,300. Overall, average farm size in Missouri remained the same at 293 acres.

Other states in MFA territory were either unchanged or down in total farm numbers. Farms in neighboring Arkansas declined from 43,000 in 2016 to 42,300 in 2017, although average farm size grew from 319 to 322 acres. Kansas remained at 59,600 farms, while Iowa farm numbers decreased by 100 to 86,900 in 2017. Farm size was consistent in both of these states.

Across the U.S., the number of farms for 2017 is estimated at 2.05 million, down 12,000 farms from 2016. Total land in farms, at 910 million acres, decreased 1 million acres from 2016. The average U.S. farm size for 2017 is 444 acres, up 2 acres from the previous year.

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Bringing landscapes to life

Playing in the sand can be serious business.

Just ask MFA Incorporated’s Precision Agronomy Department Manager Thad Becker and MFA agronomists. They have created an “augmented reality” sandbox that’s more than child’s play.

This hands-on exhibit combines a tabletop sandbox, a Microsoft Kinect 3D camera, powerful simulation software and a data projector to create interactive topography models. Users mold the sand by hand, and the landscape comes to life. The peaks and valleys of the sand shapes are augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc.

The augmented reality sandbox was originally developed by the University of California, Davis, with funds from the National Science Foundation, and the software to power the system is a free open-source download from the university. Becker and staff agronomists built the sandbox and worked with MFA Information Technology personnel to put the technology together for the exhibit.

The interactive display debuted at MFA’s Winter Buyers Market in January, where it was a popular stop for visitors, and the precision agronomy team took the sandbox to the Western Farm Show Feb. 23-25 in Kansas City. They also plan to use it in future producer meetings and training events.

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Year of the Tractor

The oldest existing John Deere plow, a 1918 Waterloo Boy tractor and a first-generation GPS receiver are all part of a new exhibition to celebrate the “Year of the Tractor” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

To mark the 100th anniversary of John Deere’s entry into the tractor market, the museum opened two new temporary displays that celebrate the past, present and future of agriculture. As part of the commemoration, an iconic green, yellow and red 1918 Waterloo Boy tractor will be on view at the entrance to the museum’s “American Enterprise” exhibition. Deere and Company acquired the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. in March 1918, introducing farmers to lightweight, mass-produced tractors. This major revolution in agriculture moved farming firmly into the realm of commercial production.

The Waterloo Boy will be showcased with historic images and advertisements that marketed the then-new technology to help convince farmers to shift from animal power and labor-intensive production to gasoline-powered tractors.

The American Enterprise exhibition also includes a new precision farming display focused on technology that helped launch a different agriculture revolution. Objects and information in the display will tell the story of how farmers have adapted to precision technology—even the use of drones—that is changing agricultural practices in fundamental ways.

Key objects showcased in “Precision Farming” include a GPS receiver, a crop yield monitor from 1996 and a cow neck tag with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The display also features four stories of farmers engaged in precision farming.

Throughout the “Year of the Tractor,” the museum will also incorporate tractor history, agriculture and innovation programming into its offerings for the public. For more information on the exhibition, visit: http://bit.ly/AmericanEnterprise.

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