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The Khaki Farmer

by May 26, 2010International Perspectives

Farmer Hats

If you are a farmer in North America there is no doubt you wear a lot of different hats during the day. I am not referring to a Pioneer or Dekalb hat, but the hat of grain marketer, accountant, agronomist, machine operator, etc.  You are heavily involved in all aspects of your operation.  This is not the case in other parts of the world.  In areas of South America, Eastern Europe, Russia and the former CIS countries (former Soviet Republics) it is common to meet a different type of farmer, “the khaki farmer”.

You are probably asking yourself, what is a khaki farmer?  The term khaki farmer refers to a farmer who runs and operates the business side of the farm without actually performing any of the labor, or very little of it, themselves.  These farmers spend most of their time behind a desk – marketing grain, negotiating equipment and input purchases, meeting with bankers, insurance providers, etc.  The khaki farmer employs farm managers and farm laborers to make sure the work gets done.

In order to manage such large operations the khaki farmer needs information.  They are not able to be hands-on in every activity of the operation and therefore do not have first-hand knowledge of each field.  To get the information they need the khaki farmer relies on precision farming tools.  They use soil sampling, yield maps and aerial imaging to help determine their fertilizer requirements and create prescription maps. Information collected with handheld PDAs during crop scouting helps determine herbicide and fungicide applications.  Previous yield data for different hybrids and varieties leads to decisions on which seed to plant in which field.  The more information they have the better they can manage their operation.


The khaki farmer is always looking for ways technology can make their job easier and more efficient.  One of the new technologies these farmers are looking to use is wireless data transfer.  Sending and receiving information from the field to office, or tracking vehicles and operation progress in real-time are just a couple ways this technology can provide information to make better and timelier decisions.  Crop sensing is another new technology the khaki farmer is interested in.  In addition to mapping and data collection, these sensors can read the crops’ nitrogen needs in real-time and then automatically adjust the application of nitrogen on-the-go, making the input use more efficient and improving the bottom line.

While most farmers may not wear khaki pants and a dress shirt when they leave the house in the morning they are part khaki farmer whether they want to admit it or not.  Every farmer has to deal with the business side of their operation at some point and most do not care what type of pants they are wearing when doing it.  However, they will care about the information they have at hand to help them.  Quality information is important and precision farming can help provide the information necessary to make profitable decisions. Keep that in mind as you go through the growing season, what information could you use?  Are there investments in technology to be made before harvest? Next year?