For six generations, the Jackson family has farmed their “little piece of heaven” in Mahaska County. And they’ve worked through challenges in ag markets and adapting new technologies to diversify and grow their farm.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to talk about those changes on the farm and how they make crops and livestock better, says Mike Jackson.

“We need to talk about the changes in agriculture and make it easy to understand that change isn’t scary. We need to show people who don’t farm how technology doesn’t just make us profitable, it improves soil and water quality — and everyone cares about that. We need to show them how GPS in our tractors is for more than just planting straight rows of corn,” said Jackson, a Mahaska County Farm Bureau member and chair of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer Advisory Committee, at the IFBF annual meeting last week.

The Jackson family grows corn and soybeans and has a custom seed-drilling business. They also have seed dealerships with Latham Hi-Tech seeds and Iowa Cover Crop, which makes up the family’s business, Jackson Seed Sales. In addition, the family raises hogs.

“I wonder what Grandpa Mack would say if he could see the GPS in my tractor today. He would be shocked to learn that it’s so accurate I could drop a penny in my field, mark it on my GPS and still find it again, 10 years later. I wonder what Grandpa would say if he saw our drones? We use them to scout a field, so I know what spot needs ‘boots on the ground.’ I use my iPad to scout my corn and soybean fields and can section off a place in a field that is rough, then change fertilizer or herbicide rates and check the progress, year to year,” Jackson said.

In addition, the family raises hogs and utilizes the manure to grow their crops.

Welcoming change

“We can joke about how some people don’t understand farming today. But the simple truth is we all need to think about how we tell our story. We need to share who we are, what we do and why,” Jackson said.

It’s about explaining soil sampling and manure samples to ensure a more precise application of manure. And it’s about having that open-door policy, Jackson said, and inviting others out to the farm to see what modern farming looks like.

And for the family, it’s about welcoming change in agriculture, Jackson said.

“We welcome change because it drives our future. But we can’t forget the past — of working together for the benefit of all,” Jackson said. 

“We share what we have, and we share our story, because farming needs to be understood, to be protected.  I, for one, never lose focus on why I work so hard every day. It’s my kids: Arianna, Johnathon and Mack,” Jackson said. “God willing, they will be the seventh generation of Jackson family farmers.”