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A little knowledge goes a long way

Now that he’s moved from Toronto to his family farm in Manitoba, 
Toban Dyck is ready to check out his first major farm show

Farmers say winter is the time to reflect on the season past, plan for the season ahead and, for some, relax (though “relax” is not a word I hear too often in the farming community). The snow has now arrived and with it the desire to be cozy and hibernate. My wife, who loves winter, is thrilled to finally see the white stuff, as we didn’t see much of it in Toronto.

My winter as a rookie farmer, may not be too research and development heavy, but my father and I did recently attend the Agri-Trade Expo in Red Deer, Alberta, which was an interesting experience for someone new to farming. And, presumably, judging by attendance, an interesting event for the seasoned farmer, as well.

My wife has always known more about sports than me. In fact, for most of my life, I made fun of sports enthusiasts, calling them simple, and other things. But, really, I turned my nose up because I knew nothing about how hockey, football or any other sport was played. Now, I know enough about sports to willingly sacrifice my Sunday afternoons to NFL, and to be irked by the NHL lockout (although my wife still knows more than me). The more detailed my knowledge becomes, the more I appreciate whatever it is I’m learning about. This is not profound, nor is it meant to be, but it does illustrate why farmers wanting to remain interested in their vocation, should continue to learn about ag-related innovations.

Trade show

At the trade show, I learned a thing or two about farming and machinery, and now, I appreciate my new life on the farm even more. Case International had on display at the event a combine stripped down to its vital guts, giving me a clear view of how the rotor, concave, fan, sieves and augers work (they had it plugged into a power source and turned on).

I believe in a previous column I wrote about my experience driving my dad’s combine for the first time this fall, but what I may have neglected to say is I didn’t understand any of the information displayed on the machine’s monitor: seed-loss stats, fan speed and about 3,000 other things I shouldn’t waste the space to list. After observing the functioning combine guts and understating what each moving part does, I could now suggest a solution to at least a few possible problems. August 2013 is a few months away, but I will try to remember.

Innovation is surprisingly practical. The new products showcased in Red Deer were not jaw-dropping, for the most part. Many of the more innovative items were merely common implements re-imagined — like, say, a harrow with tine wheels instead of a sleeve of tines fastened to a bar. Doing things one way because that’s the way it’s always been done may be a great source of stability in a vocation that can be quite unstable, but being stagnant is never a good thing.

We drove to the show from near Winkler, Manitoba, about a 15-hour drive. We had many hours of farm gazing and I had all the time in the world to ask any question that came to mind. Farming changes a lot between southern Manitoba and southern Alberta. We passed large zero-tillage areas, where many farmers use grain bags to store their crops on-field. We passed many farms that have to work around oil, gas, or wind-power infrastructure. I knew this specific diversity existed before the drive, but seeing again what other farmers are up to is inspiring.

Cross-country drives, getting together with other farmers, learning about what’s new in the industry, and paying attention to the details is the best cure I can think of to stagnation. Whatever the case, I’m just happy to finally know how a combine works. †

About the author


Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]



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