By Aubrey Woods | For The Republic
awoods@therepublic.com

Two of the three guest speakers during this year’s annual Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce Ag Breakfast spoke about the ongoing improvements in technology and the future of farming.

The third had a different take on those topics.

“Remember despite all this technology, one other thing that is constant about agricultural is the need to laugh,” Tom Bechman said during the event Wednesday at American Legion Post 89 in Seymour.

“And appreciate family no matter what’s going on and how tough it gets,” he said. “Appreciate the humor. Sometimes, you’ve got to laugh at yourself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you need to look at yourself.”

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Bechman, editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, spoke about the history of Prairie Farmer, which was a company started in 1841 by John Stephen Wright in 1841 in Chicago. The magazine was known as The Union Agriculturist and Western Prairie Farmer at that time.

It was a founded on a very simple principle, the Franklin resident said.

“Find a farmer that does a good job at something,” Bechman said. “Have him write down his story and tell it to other farmers, and we still try to do that today. We talk to other people, too — specialists, company people.”

The magazine later added a Chicago radio station, WLS, to give a voice to farmers. WLS, which went on the air April 12, 1924, was short for World’s Largest Store and was founded by Sears, Roebuck & Co. about four years earlier.

Prairie Farmer also started WLS’s National Barn Dance in 1924 and the Farm Progress Show in 1953.

Bechman has written a column, “Front Porch,” for Indiana Prairie Farmer for about 15 years.

“Every story in there is 95 percent of the stuff that has happened to me,” he said.

Before Bechman spoke, Richard Beckort introduced this year’s scholarship winners.

“This is always the best part of the program for me because I get to introduce a couple of kids who are doing wonderful things,” said Beckort, who is a member of the chamber’s ag committee. “It gives me a good, warm feeling about the future of agriculture in this county. We’ve got some great kids out there doing wonderful things.”

Scholarship recipients must write an essay, and this year’s topic was “How Millennials Will Change Agriculture.”

“They’re the future, so we want to see what their vision is of agricultural and how we can fit into their vision,” Beckort said.

The $1,000 scholarship winner was Kalynda Hoevener of Crothersville, and the $500 scholarship winner was Andrew Kellermeier from Brownstown.

Hoevener, who was born and raised on a farm, said millennials have been raised to take advantage of the technology that is available.

“Although it is much different than the ways of the past, I feel that they have embraced that and used it to their advantage,” she said.

She said those in agriculture have to face the changes in technology with open and optimistic minds.

“Technology was not available in the time when they were using the horse and plow to get their crops in,” Hoevener said.

Hoevener said she believes millennials are going to change agriculture drastically.

“They are finding ways to feed the world’s larger population that America and the rest of the world are expecting,” she said.

Some of the changes in technology include the increased use of irrigation systems in the country to help avoid drought.

“Irrigation systems have helped farmers in a number of ways, and I am sure we will see those multiply as the years go on,” she said.

She also talked about genetic modified organisms.

“GMOs are needed to effectively grow the amounts of food that are needed to feed the American population,” she said.

She said consumers are now willing to pay for fresh and healthy food and go to great lengths to find it.

That will lead to more small family local farms growing vegetables.

Hoevener said millennials also will be using drones more and more because they are very effective and helpful when it comes to spraying pesticides and handling other jobs.