We have spent the last few days down on the family farms of Kent County, Maryland. Before we arrived to these farms, my impression of a family farm was a small little farm house on a decent plot of land with a few barns full of animals…or something along those lines. I assumed that most of the farmers would not have college degrees because of this family business they were born into. I have never been so wrong. The operations at work on these farms are so complex that it is near to impossible to run a farm without earning a degree. A farmer has to wear many hats. They have to be businessmen, economists, engineers, data analysts and countless others all while getting credit for just being a “simple” farmer.
Sean Jones of the Jones Family Dairy Farm is one of these farmers with an amazing reputation among the agricultural community. His degree in Dairy Science from Virginia Tech may have given him the basics of running a farming operation, but the wealth of knowledge this man has acquired must be an ongoing learning process. Science and politics seem to be the drivers of the conversations we had with Sean. Every stage of the process of raising dairy cows has a piece of science or math associated. Each of the 1200 cows on the farm are electronically tracked to maintain optimal health. Their diets are highly specific as to gain the most nutrients to become efficient milk producers. It is all a very specific and calculated method and Sean knows every aspect of it. The other side of the equation for a healthy and productive farm is keeping up with policies and the newest regulations. Sean has kept up and kept ahead of environmental regulations of the agricultural world by recycling the cow’s sand bedding, fertilizing with manure and constructing a phosphorus removal system . He has even been able to anticipate future policy by implementing some systems before they are required. Sean Jones is much more than just a farmer.
This is the world of today’s farmer. They are held to standards that many would never expect of a farmer. They are conscious of their environment and masters of their companies. They have intuition and the education to back it. With such a dependence on food as populations grow it is comforting to know that our farmers are able to keep up with this technology based world and use it to their benefit.