Farming and football. The combination doesn’t just roll off the tongue – it drips with pride, anticipation and tradition.
Whether a profession or a pastime, the distinctly American pursuits breed generational passion. Close your eyes and picture harvesting a successful corn crop on a crisp autumn Sunday afternoon while listening to your favorite pro pigskin team trounce a division rival.
Sentimentality aside, the Xs and Os of football and farming intersect – at least in concept. Consider that a professional football field (48,000 sq. feet) is about the same size as an acre (43,560 sq. feet).
Think about the planning, preparation and practice that goes into executing an NFL game plan on the field. The same is true on every acre of your operation.
If you consider harvest the Super Bowl of the farming season, getting to that point requires discipline, patience and improvisation throughout the year. Depending on your geographic location, you may endure frequent blitzes from Mother Nature throughout the growing season.
Perhaps labor shortages are limiting the depth of your team. Maybe kinks in the equipment supply chain are narrowing the scope of your seasonal playbook. You’ve possibly called a few audibles on input investments because of increasing costs.
Adversity is part of every season. How you overcome, adapt and learn from it dictates sustainable success. So you look for that competitive edge – the difference-maker.
Today, data drives the precision decision-making process to reduce the risk of failure, improve the odds of success and create opportunity out of uncertainty.
Moments after throwing a critical interception, quarterbacks head to the sideline and dissect the mistake from every angle on a tablet. Coordinators digitally track trends to calculate probabilities and anticipate outcomes of every play call. Executives crunch and analyze annual statistics to try and make more innovative roster investments that result in efficient, economical production.
The above data applications should be relatable to aspects of your farm management strategy. If not, it might be time for some organizational changes.
Going back to the comparable sizes of a football field and a farm acre, consider the volume of data cycling through that small area of your operation. Seeding and fertilizing prescriptions, as-applied maps, soil sampling, yield monitor data, aerial imagery, and the list goes on.
Now think about how much influence the data from that one acre has on your entire operation. It might be easy to dismiss the significance of one acre out of thousands, but that mentality isn’t saving hundreds in dry fertilizer costs or adding double-digit bushels.
Talking recently with the fourth-generation owner of a 1,500-acre farm on the cusp of corn harvest, he drew his management parallels between football and farming. His goal in the next 3-5 years is to hire someone to be the “data coach” for the operation to the point where they can make intelligent farm management decisions down to the footprint left by the owner’s size 11 boot.
Call him the Bill Belichick of farmers. He compared the role of a data coach on the farm to that of a special teams coach in football. But ideally, the responsibility of the data coach would rapidly grow to influence the entire operation.
Some farmers are already viewing data specialists as integral investments in their franchise of the future.
The analogies between football and farming are endless. Whenever you tune into another game on the gridiron, picture that field as if it were an acre your own. Ask yourself if your current game plan with ag data is scoring touchdowns or leading to turnovers.
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