By Timothy Collins, Chair, Kern County Young Farmers & Ranchers
It had been several years since our last Young Farmers and Ranchers dairy tour as a club, and with milk consistently being one of Kern’s top five commodities, we felt it was time to do another tour. In March, we toured Lakeview Farms Dairy located southwest of Bakersfield. It’s a relatively new and modern dairy, and we all walked away surprised and impressed at the level of technology now incorporated in milk production. From the cows being monitored with implanted identification chips, to an entire manure digester producing natural gas, every step of the process has been affected by technological advancements. It is this innovation in the agriculture industry that allows us to continue to produce milk and everything else more efficiently and with higher quality than ever before.
Not only is agriculture embracing “smart” technologies, but it is also embracing “green” technologies that make it a part of California’s continued energy sustainability push. Lakeview Farms is not alone in installing a massive digester system that is able to capture natural gas from cow manure and then use that gas to power a generator or be sold into the pipeline. On top of that, surrounding many dairies are rows of solar panels to help provide power as well. On the water side of sustainability, water at dairies is never wasted but rather used multiple times before it even makes it out to irrigate the fields. Agriculture is not an industry that is opposed to sustainability, quite the opposite. Agriculture has always been about sustainability, and it’s been part of the industry long before it became a focus of our state.
I was recently at a farm equipment dealership checking on my student interns when I began talking to the manager about one of the modern potato planters that they were assembling. This was a piece of equipment that did multiple jobs at once and required much skill and knowledge to design, set up, and operate correctly. Especially in California’s diverse agricultural industry, there is much more room for those with ambition going into ag to use their ability to innovate.
At the recent state FFA conference, I was pleased to see our state’s Young Farmers and Ranchers set up at the career fair and reaching out to all the ag students. YF&R is the next step students need to get the most involved in agriculture after graduation. Agriculture is an exciting industry that has always been filled with innovations and technologies and will continue to have much room for improvement in the future. We need to continue to raise up the next generation of farmers and ranchers for the industry that not only embraces but pioneers new technologies, making it a leader in the twenty-first century.
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