News Column

Getting High-tech Down on the Farm

Feb 8, 2013

Charity Vogel

Sophisticated GPS technology -- on a tractor.

A high-tech milling machine that can create "greener" lumber by cutting closer and wasting less wood.

Or how about this: a robotic milking machine that scans a cow to pull up digital data about its milk production, and knows just where to find its unique set of udders.

"This gives the dairyman his life back," said Christine Krawczyk, showing off the features on a cutting-edge milking machine by DeLaval. "We have people that can now attend their kids' sporting events."

Stop into the third annual Western New York Farm Show, running until Saturday at the Showplex at the Hamburg Fairgrounds, and two things become abundantly clear.

One: Farming is not what you think it is anymore.

And two: It's hard work, yes, but this also looks a lot like fun.

Take one of the onboard computer and global positioning system devices on display at the booth for Oxbo, a farm equipment company based in Byron.

This computer drives the tractor for you, thanks to auto-steering, said Andy Joy, a specialist for the company. It tracks your fertilizer application and your planting. It tries its best to correct any mistakes you make, right away.

"It keeps track of where you've been in the field," said Joy. "It eliminates overlap."

But do farmers like eliminating some of the guesswork of their livelihood?

"Once they get it, they're addicted to it," said Joy.

The Farm Show attracted 5,000 people in its first year and 10,000 last year, according to executives at the Evans Agency, the Southtowns-based insurance agency that hosts and organizes the event.

"Western New York has the best agriculture in the state," said Alan R. Butzer, account executive at the Evans Agency and executive director of the Farm Show. "It's the most diverse. Everything from agriculture and crops, dairy, equine, maple products, timber and forestry -- it's the most diverse in the Northeast."

This year, the event includes about 120 exhibitors, organizers said.

The timing of the Farm Show was chosen with farmers' schedules in mind, Butzer said.

"This is the best time to have a Farm Show. Farmers are busy in the summer," he said. "This is their down time."

Farmers at the show agreed, and said they appreciated the chance to get out, see some new products and technologies and talk to others.

"You can see new things," said Stephen Woloszyn, of Woloszyn Dairy Farm in Delevan, who farms 600 acres and has close to 200 cows on a spread his father farmed before him. "You come in here and it's all in one place. Farmers don't get out much -- it's good to socialize."

Woloszyn said he has two sons who want to go into his business some day -- which means he is looking carefully at technologies like the robotic milkers.

"That may be in our future," he said.

In one building, a glitzy new horse trailer was shown off by Bill Hopkins of Lazy H Horse Sales in Sardinia, who sells trailers and also deals in horses all over Western New York.

High-tech features also have come to equine products, said Hopkins, who gestured to new light-emitting diode (LED) lights that blink on the back of the Homesteader trailer (price: about $15,000) he was exhibiting, as well as to new 2-inch-thick floors in the trailers, made out of a synthetic material now, no longer wood.

"They're just as nice as your car now," he said, of the trailer. "They're not the ugly old trailer anymore."

In another corner of the complex of three buildings making up the Farm Show event, Jeremy Hutton of Wood-Mizer, a milling equipment company with a branch in Hannibal, was talking up the virtues of high-tech new milling band saws that can take down a 36-inch-diameter tree, while cutting more finely and greatly reducing the amount of board waste.

"This mill's a lot greener than the saws of yesterday," said Hutton, standing next to slabs of thick black walnut from a Panama tree that he had just milled within the hour. "We're cutting down on how many trees you have to harvest to have usable material.

"People are looking for, 'Let's harvest less, and produce more,'" Hutton said.

Hutton said the mill cost about $25,000, and could be towed from site to site for use on farms but also in backyards or in urban locations.

"It's less than a pickup truck," he said, of the price, "and you can make a living with it."

Nearby, representatives of the state's beef industry offered passersby something called a "Hot Beef Sundae" -- which turned out to be mashed potatoes covered with shredded beef, shredded cheese, sour cream, and a cherry tomato.

"It's the best," said Kathie Librock, who was working the beef stand. "I have not heard a complaint."

The Western New York Farm Show is free and open to the public, and parking is also free. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The Fairgrounds are located at 5600 McKinley Parkway, Hamburg.

For more information, see the Farm Show's website at www.wnyfarmshow.com.



Source: (c)2013 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.