Thursday, December 7, 2017

Farm Toys, Alexa, and Santa

With Christmas fast approaching, a farmer turns from his tablet screen where he has been monitoring the health of his milk cows. "Alexa," he says to a silo-shaped speaker on the kitchen table, "what farm toys should I get for the kids this year?"

Alexa's algorithmic upbringing programs her to list old-school toys first. "A red barn with white trim for your eight-year-old might be good. The wooden ones with real cupolas and hinged haymow doors are rare, but plastic barns that come with shiny, happy farm animals are plentiful. You might try a My Little Pony set for your youngest."

At this point, the farmer could reflect on the fact that he is taking advice from an "intelligent personal assistant device" that reminds him a bit too much of a miniature monolith from the film 2001, A Space Odyssey. Or he might just glance at the grain market report on his iPhone while Alexa moves on to more contemporary toys.

“Drones are popular. Your preteen can fly one the size of a drink coaster indoors and pretend he is surveying fields and herding cattle. The X-2 model has extra padding in case he flies it into the picture window or tries to land it on his grandpa's bald head while he sleeps in the recliner."

"Cut the humor, Alexa. Anything else?"

"One company offers toy confinement buildings equipped with manure lagoons and honey wagons that spray liquid. They recommend this toy for outdoor use since it comes with scratch-and-sniff aroma capabilities."

"I hope you're not cyber pranking me. Speaking of digital, any good apps?”

"May I suggest Old McDonald's Kandy Krush for the youngest, Pokémon Down on the Farm for the eight-year-old, and Old West Virtual Reality Range War for the oldest one. Did you know sheep and cattle ranchers were not very nice to each other in those days?"

"Thanks for the history lesson, but let's get some orders in. Search for a real wooden barn, a sixteen-row combine, and the little ponies set. Also, the miniature drone--and just to keep up with the superhero craze, add two action characters: Thor and Wonder Woman."

"Excellent choices. With that hammer of his, Thor will be very handy around the farm, and Wonder Woman can move hay bales and loads of grain in no time."

“By the way, Alexa, do you believe in Santa?”

“I have never met the man, but according to the Apple Company, you can download an app and your children will receive a personalized call from Santa. Apparently it can be used to ‘encourage good behavior’ all year long.”

“Enough of the parenting tips. Play a classic version of Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas.’ And add more cowbell.”                               

by Dan Gogerty (top pic from and bottom from facebook.jpg)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Youth and Agriculture--Some Encouraging News

A type of rural Methuselah effect has some worried that farmers are aging, while young people have little interest in food production--but a recent survey shows that the trends might be shifting.

According to the 2017 National Young Farmer Survey, America’s new generation of young farmers expects to overcome major barriers to their success in agriculture--including access to land, affordable health care, and mounting student loan debt; but according to some, success will require deliberate policy change at all levels of government. The survey was conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition in partnership with Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

Reactions to this report vary, but some note that the farming landscape is changing in key ways. According to this article, the new generation can’t hope to replace the numbers that farming is losing to age. But it is already contributing to the growth of the local-food movement and could help preserve the place of midsize farms in the rural landscape.

Moving Toward Agriculture: Personal Choice, School Projects, and International Development

This two-time Super Bowl champ decided the place for him is the family farm.

In St. Louis, Missouri, a group of adolescents and young adults learns about economic development, self-sustainability, and urban agriculture through the Sweet Potato Project

The African Development Bank—with the leadership of Akinwumi Adesina--launched the Youth Advisory Group to create 25 million jobs and benefit 50 million youth over the next 10 years by equipping them with the right skills to get decent and meaningful jobs. 

by dan gogerty (top pic from and bottom from