Another Similarity Between Dealers And Family Farmers—Technology

December 2, 2014


About 15 years ago, I purchased a farm in Northwest Illinois, where I became a USDA-registered farmer. I had more than just a financial interest in the operation, as I was fascinated with the ways my partners planned and worked the land to produce corn and soybeans.

I thought of those days over the weekendcarinfield while reading a New York Times article. It discusses the ever-more critical role that technology plays in helping today’s family farmers succeed in an increasingly difficult environment.

Take the opening lines from the Times article, titled “Working the Land and the Data:”

“Kip Tom, a seventh-generation family farmer, harvests the staples of modern agriculture: seed corn, feed corn, soybeans and data.

“I’m hooked on a drug of information and productivity,” he said, sitting in an office filled with computer screens and a whiteboard covered with schematics and plans for his farm’s computer network.

Mr. Tom, 59, is as much a chief technology officer as he is a farmer. Where his great-great-grandfather hitched a mule, “we’ve got sensors on the combine, GPS data from satellites, cellular modems on self-driving tractors, apps for irrigation on iPhones,” he said.

…But for farmers like Mr. Tom, technology offers a lifeline, a way to navigate the boom-and-bust cycles of making a living from the land. It is also helping them grow to compete with giant agribusinesses.”

As I read this article, I couldn’t help but think of how much farming has changed since the not-so-distant days when I would occasionally ride along as my partners would harvest or plow our fields.

I also thought of how much data and technology have changed the car business. I recalled countless conversations with dealers who, like farmer Kip Tom in the article, have come to rely on data-based insights to achieve the level of efficiencies and profitability today’s challenging automotive retail environment requires.

The piece goes on to highlight how some tech-savvy family farmers are taking their competitive advantage to the next level, expanding operations while their tradition-minded neighbors struggle to survive—a dynamic that’s familiar to most, if not all, dealers.

As I finished the piece, I realized that the same essential story could appear in any automotive industry publication, albeit with a different headline: “Working the Deals and the Data.”