Knowledge fuels farm progress


Bill Grammer shot down my skepticism, and ignorance.
In recent years, we’ve received numerous university news releases touting the benefits of farm advisory teams. In fact, another one appears on page A20 of this week’s paper.
Privately, I doubted any farmer really had time or energy to put together a “team” and get them all in the same room once or twice a year. I mean, this isn’t the corporate world here, we’re talking farms.
But when I interviewed Grammer, a Mahoning County dairyman, he told me he held his first advisory group meeting earlier this year. His banker, veterinarian, nutritionist, agronomist, herd manager gathered with Grammer and his wife, Debbie, to discuss goals for the year.
He wanted his “team” to see the farm’s big picture, to realize how each outsider contributed to the farm’s overall success, to facilitate lines of communication, to share ideas.
“You have to have a network of people that you work with,” Grammer said. “You can’t be afraid to ask.”
Knowledge-based growth. This Farm and Dairy and next week’s issue are filled with stories about farm families who are looking forward with new products, new ideas and new enthusiasm.
The Schiederers, featured on page 1 today, worked and studied for years before they started their farmhouse cheese operation. Deb and Jim Morris of Shreve (page 14 of today’s special Progress supplement) built their small farm niche with sheep.
These are farms where knowledge fuels growth and profitability.
In the past, farms could squeak by on production alone. Today, it’s knowledge that generates new ideas, boosts productivity and drives success.
A farmer’s knowledge combines his education, experience and effort. It’s not just information, it’s ideas and ingenuity. And it’s the ability to act on that knowledge. To try, to test, to fail, to regroup. To learn.
Ripple effect. Knowledge also boosts the entire farm community because it produces “spillovers,” observe Jason Henderson and Bridget Abraham in a report to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City last year.
“Spillovers are benefits to people beyond those who possess the knowledge,” they explain. This knowledge thing spills over to other farmers, other nutritionists, other bankers.
Pa. Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff has witnessed that spillover in the state’s pilot Dairy Profit Team Program.
“First, producers tend to share their experiences and lessons learned with neighbors, who then adopt the practices. Second, service professionals, after learning about new ways to approach problems, share and implement these methods on other farms,” Wolff said.
Have to ‘work smart.’ Next week’s Farm and Dairy profiles the Jefferson County dairy of Jake and Susan Sutton. Their attention to numbers – their knowledge – keeps their farm moving forward. Jake hits the nail on the head when he explains why.
“It used to be you could make a living just working hard. Not now. Now you have to work smart, too.”
You have to build knowledge.

“Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
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(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at


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