Corn Farmers Coalition

Technology Means Cheaper Food, Cleaner Environment

Tom Martin (Mt. Pulaski, Illinois)

Tom Martin estimates he’s saved 100,000 gallons of fuel at a savings of $200,000 over a quarter of a century of growing corn.

Martin grows yellow corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa with three part-time helpers on 1,200 acres outside Mt. Pulaski, square in the middle of Illinois and named in honor of the Polish Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski.

How did he save all that money? Simple. He’s been no-fill farming since 1988, and also retiring HEL, or highly erodible land. “We have achieved a level of near-zero soil loss,” says Martin, 52, who has a degree in biological sciences.

He’s also spending half what he used to spend on equipment, which means less money for tires, oil, grease and all the other material it takes to keep a farm running.

Martin has farmed for a quarter of a century; he is the sixth generation to live and work on this land since 1918. That means he tends to take a long view.

“I’m very positive,” he says. “There are great opportunities, even though I think there is also, and will be, a great deal of volatility.

“The challenges in our business are quite different than just 10 years ago. They’re not as much farming challenges as business challenges such as financing, high input costs, competitive cash rents and the like.

“While the possibility of high returns on your investment will be possible, so will the possibility of great loss. Management of risk will be crucial in the years to come.”

One way farmers can prepare: Keep using advances in biotechnology and high-tech farming equipment to stay ahead in flush times and avoid disaster in hard times.

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