Nine weeks ago I started writing a weekly series for my website.
Getting back in the industry after a 15-year break raising kids and supporting my husbands' career I found myself traveling up and down the east coast working with all types of farmers. I had several challenges with the sector of the industry I was working in, however, a common theme started appearing with the majority of growers I was working with. They didn't have any clue what I was talking about when I used basic agronomic terminology. Most people don't even know what agronomy is, let alone what an agronomist does. I am not here to put anyone down. It became apparent to me there is an entire generation of farmers and people working in the industry that haven't had the privilege to learn from those that came before them. People like my grandfather, who started farming in 1949 learning from his dad, or my uncle who currently runs our family's farm. Or people like my dad, who grew up farming and worked in several areas of the industry his whole life. I've had that privilege. I learned from them and some of the best agronomist that are no longer with us.
So, the 52 Weeks of Agronomy got started at my dining room table. I publish them on the News Page at www.theaccidentalagronomist.com The following is the first post from January. Periodically I'll be posting them here on Agfuse as well.
If you have an idea for a post, drop me a note, I'd love to hear from you and what information you think people need to hear about.
Almost a year ago I officially started working as an independent agronomist. March 20th, I launched a new website and spoke at a conference for the first time as The Accidental Agronomist. I’ve come along way from wondering if this crazy idea I had to go out on my own was going to work. I'm not saying there hasn’t been challenges and times I have wanted to quit. I still face that, however as I keep at it, there is one thing that has been a recurring theme: more growers than what I would have guessed don’t have a basic understanding of agronomic concepts and principles.
Farmers, that’s right – the very people that are putting into practice the science of agronomy, or at least should be, don’t even know what agronomy is or why they should have some basic understanding of it. I’m not saying everyone that is farming falls into this category, nor am I saying that everyone needs a degree in it to farm or grow. What I’m suggesting is that if more farmers/growers understood some basic concepts, you would be equipped to make better decisions about every facet of your farm. Everything from the inputs necessary to grow a crop, irrigation, seed selection, soil fertility, soil health, disease and pest management, yield goals, and way more than I care to type out are dependant on just a few simple concepts that are universal no matter what type of system you use to grow.
Let’s start with what agronomy is. The most basic definition is the scientific management of land. It is the practice of using science and applying those concepts in practical ways to efficiently and successfully achieve the growers intended goal for the land.
If you want to grow kumquats and be the best kumquat grower in the world, you manage your land and resources to achieve that goal. How you want to manage, but more importantly are you willing to do what it takes to be successful are the most critical issues you should tackle first. If being the worlds best kumquat growers means you have to find land that can support that crop but means you move halfway around the world to do so, are you willing to make that commitment? If it means you farm 24 hours a day only taking the third Tuesday of every other month off, are you willing to do it? Are the management strategies required to be successful at growing kumquats what you want to take on and something you see yourself doing?
Obviously this is an extreme example, but hopefully, you get the point I’m making. Shifting your thinking to terms of land and crop management can help you to start and develop achievable strategies.