Editorial: Tricking out planters has become popular

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Few areas of agriculture see more farm-level innovation these days than we see in planters.

There are hundreds if not thousands of permutations of planters and much of that variability is driven by farmer modifications.

My wife and I recently were thumbing through various social media feeds. She wondered why I was so intently examining a photo of a planter.

Tracing the route of tubes on planters usually tells the story about what the farmer was aiming to do.

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I told her I was trying to figure out what a drop was behind closing wheels.

Then I zoomed out and said, “Isn’t that a beautiful planter?”

I got an incredulous look.

I’m not sure if any others have come to this point, but there’s a beauty in the symmetry of many similar row units, the bulbous fertilizer tanks (especially for liquid). There’s also something to how a planter moves as it rolls across the surface of the land.

Maybe COVID-19 isolation is really getting to me and I need to spend 12 hours on a tractor and that will cure me of winsome appreciation of equipment.

I tend to place value in the practical, and planters are a critical piece of equipment. Only in use for a few days per year, planters build the precise cradle for hundreds of thousands of individual seeds.

Farmers have taken to planter modification like nothing I’ve seen.

People who do the modification work for farmers say that it starts with a preferred tool bar to build upon and from there anything goes. The advent of companies providing third-party components, like Precision Planting, has driven this evolution. It’s also remarkably individual, which, I have to say, has likely brought some fun to tinkerer farmers, who have less ability to modify their tractors than they once did.

Damage done in debate over foreign worker access

There’s been years of careful work done to raise the profile of agriculture as an enviable vocation.

Some of that was torn down in the sometimes reckless rhetoric the sector has used in defending the necessary temporary foreign worker program.

“Add to that the long hours, blazing sun, bugs and, especially in field work, back-breaking labour, and the idea of riding out unemployment in the COVID-19 pandemic by working on a farm, is not for everyone,” said a story that ran in several southern Ontario newspapers, including the Simcoe Reformer, in the heart of the area that needs on-farm labourers.

There’s been a careful campaign across the sector to explain the exciting breadth of jobs available in agriculture: sciences, engineering, heavy machinery, robotics, electronics, biology, all with the ability of many of the jobs to spend some time working outside. That ability to be outside is a gift — although in the discussion about foreign workers, it was resoundingly made to sound unattractive.

There’s no doubt temporary and seasonal foreign workers are critical to our ability to feed Canadians. They provide dedicated and experienced labour to farmers, especially in horticulture, greenhouses and in some livestock operations.

However, in forcefully bolstering the case for making sure foreign workers could arrive as borders closed due to COVID-19, the case was also made against Canadians working in agriculture — something we desperately need over the next decade, at all levels of employment.

The reality is that we need both foreign workers and large numbers of Canadians willing and able to work on our farms.

The good news roundup

There are numerous good things happening in Ontario’s rural communities. Here are a couple from our May 18 edition of Farmtario.

Children are having their birthdays in isolation and that’s not very fun for them, without their friends, outings and extended family. Those friends and their communities are coming together with drive-bys, including tractors and equipment, fire trucks and vehicles with signs.

Spring 2020 has been a lot more forgiving compared the past few years. About half of the corn has already been planted, which is good progress compared, especially, to last year. Soil conditions were better in late April than they were in late June last year and that’s made for some happy farmers, able to get out of isolation and on the land.

About the author

Editor

John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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