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By Natalie Gorsuch
Williamsburg Correspondent 

Farm Bureau Tour Spotlights Technology


August 27, 2020

Natalie Gorsuch

One of the pieces of high-tech equipment discussed by Brubaker is this tractor, which, with the help of technology, knows how deep to plant seeds, what nutrients they need and the soil composition of the ground.

Blair County Farm Bureau President Gary Long proclaimed, "Blair County is special," noting the range of agriculture in the area during the Blair County Farm Bureau Legislative Farm/Agribusiness Tour on Aug. 21.

The event featured a tour of the farm of the Brubaker brothers, Daren and Randy. Hemlock Lane Farms of Catharine Township demonstrates a range of technology from horse-and-buggy to "regular" farming, and advanced technology. All were presented during the tour.

Daren Brubaker owns and operates Brubaker Precision Services of Williamsburg, where he does sales and service for Precision Planting. Brubaker talked with those on the tour about the technology behind precision planting, which is "technology [that] keeps growing [by] leaps and bounds."

Some of the technology discussed was seed planting and yield advancement. Brubaker discussed how farmers can now plant and grow crops exactly where they want to, control how deep seeds are planted and exactly what nutrients are supplied to the crops.

Instead of driving around fields, farmers can use technology and drones to look over their crops.

Farm Bureau President Long added to Brubaker's conversation by saying that soon, robotic machines will become more prevalent in the agriculture industry.

Brubaker said that as farmers, "we need to embrace technology or get left behind."

Brubaker also discussed the importance of broadband services and its importance not only on his farm, but countywide.

Blair County Commissioner Amy Webster attended the event and discussed how the $11 million in CARES Act grants that Blair County received can benefit farmers. Commissioner Webster said that Blair County has already set aside $1 million for broadband improvements. The projects funded through this grant must be completed between March 1 and Dec. 30.

Any farmer who suffered a loss or wants to improve broadband services should apply for a share of the grant funding, according to the Blair County commissioners.

Natalie Gorsuch

Daren Brubaker of Hemlock Lane Farms discusses farming technology at his farm in Catharine Township, the improvements technology has made for agriculture and his business, Brubaker Precision Services.

Blair County Commissioner Bruce Erb, who could not attend the event due to other engagements, composed a written update that was given out to all in attendance. Commissioner Erb said that the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission in 2018 began work in a comprehensive action plan to look at Blair County's broadband issues. The SAP&DC estimated that it will cost $4 million to provide adequate broadband access to unserved and underserved parts of Blair County.

Brubaker said the importance of broadband shows in conducting agribusiness, for education purposes, and for business development.

"If COVID has taught us anything, it's taught us we do not need to be in the office any more to conduct business," he said.

Dave Sollenberger, Farm Bureau boardmember, discussed the state budget and related concerns. State Rep. Jim Gregory (R-80th) said that he is "thankful" that he and state Sen. Judy Ward (R-30th), also in attendance, voted and worked to keep funding for agriculture-related projects because he "wasn't sure if that same funding would be there this year."

Rep. Gregory said, "We can't take steps backwards in ag funding, we can't accept status quo during the challenges farmers face. Those challenges require additional funding including more attention to our food supply chain."


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