Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

July 23, 2013

Who do you trust in the driver's seat?

By Laurie Johns
The Daily Iowegian

---- — It’s a rite of passage to get your driver’s license and your first car.

I have mixed feelings of pride and fear, watching my 16-year-old daughter back out of the driveway on her own for the first time. She’s leaving for marching band practice, going to a practice field she’s been to a hundred times.

Yet here I am, smiling through clenched teeth as I wave at the window. I’m not sure whether to pray for her, or the people she’ll meet on the street, so I do a little of both and cross my fingers for good measure.

As parents, we are comforted by the simple fact that today’s cars are a technological marvel compared to many of the cars that we first backed out of the driveway; they have numerous safety measures and websites dedicated to their crash-test performance ratings. What an improvement!

Remember your first car? Mine was a used, 1976 Chevy Chevette, which was ranked as one of the “50 Worst Cars Ever Made” (see photo here: (http://tinyurl.com/k9heuy5 ). My old Chevette didn’t have airbags. It didn’t have a back-up camera or blind-spot warning lights or even a seatbelt, as I recall. But, my parents liked the price tag, so I drove that thing thousands of miles, all through college and my struggling years as a radio and television reporter.

Technology improvements are quite welcome when it comes to the car industry, but it’s funny how some folks don’t look as favorably towards technological improvements in farming. Improvements in equipment, seed, livestock housing and medicine helped put Iowa on the map for progressive hog farming, corn farming and so much more.

Thanks to advances in equipment, today’s crops can be fertilized with manure that is injected below the surface, which reduces runoff and odor. Or, fertilizer can be ‘dripped’ on with the help of sophisticated technology that knows exactly when and where the plants need it, so less is used; that’s good for water quality and soil sustainability.

So, it seems like the more that farmers can connect the “why’s” of innovation, the more consumers can feel comfortable with change. Just like watching our teenagers back out of the driveway on their own, of course it’s not something that will feel comfortable after a single conversation.

Building trust, sharing knowledge, doesn’t happen overnight. My daughter spent a year preparing for her driving debut, yet many farmers I know spend decades attaining the kind of knowledge and experience that helps them raise animals and grow crops.

It is also worth noting that today’s farmers are a lot easier to get into conversation with than today’s teenagers, so why not give your farming information-quest a “test drive” with a real farmer? After all, they’ve been in the driver’s seat of international farming innovation for a long time.

Laurie Johns is public relations manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.