MARSHALL - Schuneman Equipment on Friday presented a Farm Forum in Marshall last week where area farmers could familiarize themselves with the care and maintenance of their combines and their public image.
"We're putting on these seminars to help educate growers in the area on pertinent issues in agriculture," said Schuneman representative Wendi Wendt.
About half the forum was devoted to getting two kinds of combines ready for planting and how to maintain them throughout the planting season.
Schuneman combine technician Doug Stienessen took one group through the care of the latest John Deere combine, a vacuum planter design that uses an air pump to convey seed to the planting discs.
The 2013 model has features that allow any of the 16-row planting heads to be shut off while maneuvering around a field so there is even spacing and no overlap, insuring the most efficient use of seed. It also features an onboard radar to measure ground speed and precisely calibrate the spacing of seed in the rows.
"I'm just explaining the wear points, functions, adjustments and requirements," Stienessen said.
Combine technology has been advancing rapidly, but because they are built to last, there is a wide range of combines still in use.
"I have one similar to that, but five-six years older," said Dick Vroman, who farms outside of Milroy. "The difference is in the technology and the controls."
In another part of the building, Doug Maertens took a group through the elements of maintenance of a 20-year-old finger-picker planter, a design that is rare now, though Maertens said there are still some being produced.
"I'm trying to explain to everybody what they need to do before they go into the field in the way of preventive maintenance," Maertens said.
According to Maertens, there are 40-year-old models still doing good service in agriculture.
At the end of the forum Nathan Deutz, Schuneman agricultural management systems consultant, rounded out the technical part of the program with a presentation on how planter monitoring is integrated with the tractor controls to get the seed to where it is most likely to thrive.
There was also a presentation by radio personality and agriculture advocate Trent Loos.
"I want to show how we can do a better job shaping public opinion about farming," Loos said. "There's a negative view of the implementation of science and technology in regards to genetically modified plants and nutrients and the whole cycle of life. What so many people don't understand is, everything lives, everything dies, and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life. That describes American agriculture. We respectfully create death, and that improves other living things whether that means plants, animals or human beings."
According to Loos, people in general tend to romanticize farming, but hate the present system and long for a 19th century view of agriculture.
"Last year we had the least rain in the Midwest in the history of the United States, and the fourth highest corn crop," Loos said. "What's the difference? Technology!"
Loos recommended to his audience that farmers need to raise their voice, but first to be good listeners. When farmers hear misconceptions about modern farming, they should speak up, respectfully, but not let an opportunity to state the farmers' position pass.