The technological advancements made for efficiency in farming has gained momentum the past few years. Can you imagine what our forefathers would have though about global positioning systems–or how about the use of drones? 

Maybe they wouldn’t be as surprised as one might think: Agriculture has always been in transition.

The transition from horse to tractor took place the generation before mine. My farmer's parents farmed with horses their first year of marriage, almost seventy years ago. Eventually, they were able to purchase a new tractor and never went back to doing things the ‘old way’.

That first tractor is hardly recognizable compared to what you see now on the machinery lots. Today, there are fewer brand names to remember. When the market was new, there were several tractor companies that no longer exist – Theiman, Illinois Tractor, and Flour City Tractors, to name a few. Speaking of things that no longer exist…

Strange as it seems to me, stockyards are starting to hold sentimental value. When we were kids, it was exciting to ride with dad in the straight truck when he was taking a load of cattle, either to the Sioux City Stockyards or the Sioux Falls Stockyards.

We knew the trip would include eating a meal out, something we seldom did growing up. It was an adventure just to see the road from the truck seat! Sometimes we got out of the truck to listen to dad dicker over prices with commission men. My dad knew how to raise cattle, and the buyers at the stockyards knew it was prime beef! But things change…

The Sioux City Stockyards no longer exist, and the visit to the museum to see the display just doesn't portray the same hustle and bustle, cattle lowing or the smells. The Sioux Falls Stockyards have recently been reduced to piles of rubble; all that remains is the office building. Who could ever have thought the businesses that contributed so much to the growth of several cities would change so much? That's not all that has changed…

Growing up we drank unpasteurized milk, fresh from the cooler. Many times, the milk at meal time wasn’t cold. We hated that cold milk in school, so we always chose chocolate milk because it was at least tolerable!

I wonder how many of us who grew up drinking that milk would even consider drinking raw milk today? I understand the current debate, and believe there are truths on both sides. When the industry became more strictly regulated, most smaller operations found complying with the regulations cost more than the milk check. And when that happened, the cows left the farm. It’s possible those laws prohibiting farm milk sales directly to consumers discouraged young people from buying a few cows to start their own small dairy. Remember, things change…

Does anyone remember washing eggs because the “egg man cometh tomorrow”? Sometimes we had a lot of chickens, which meant we washed many wire baskets full of eggs. My farmer thinks we were spoiled because we had an automatic washer that swished back and forth, gently washing the eggs. Even so, it was a tedious process. The eggs had to be handled one by one, and dried on towels before packing into egg boxes.

When efficient poultry processing equipment was introduced along with the headlines about eggs causing high cholesterol, many chicken houses emptied out.

And no doubt many a farm boy rejoiced: No longer did they have to clean under chicken roosts!


Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa. To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]