The Plow

In this historic photograph from the Fairhope Single Tax Colony Archives, a Baldwin County farmer puts in his crop with a horse-drawn plow and lots of elbow grease. Ten acres furrowed in a 10-hour day would have been as much as could be expected. And that might be achieved only if the field was free of obstacles and had been worked as cropland previously.

The modern photograph shows Daniel Penry, a young man with a Baldwin County farming heritage, in a GPS-navigated, air-conditioned tractor pulling a 12-row planter. Satellite technology allows the tractor to stay precisely on course, so the driver can continually monitor the activity of the planter, or whatever instrument is engaged at the moment.

Dick Johns, another lifelong farmer, explains that the use of technology is much greater than just a high-tech cruise control. “We can monitor the amount of grain we’re harvesting, for instance. That information is automatically transmitted to the office in the barn. By the time we get there, we know exactly how much it has cost to produce the product, how much we just brought in, and the current market price. We know our profit or loss before we quit for the day.”

text and photo by Catt Sirten

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