Extension Advisor Jon Ellis

Ellis: ‘The cost and the stakes — it’s like a poker game’

PRINCETON — Jon Ellis of Princeton can look back and remember what life was like growing up on the farm. He can recall his dad planting the fields, two rows at a time, with a team of horses. Back then, getting 10 acres planted was a big day for farmers.

Now looking around at the average farm today, Ellis sees 24-row planters, GPS tractor steering guidance and farmers checking off at least 300 or 400 acres planted per day.

To him, the progress made in research and technology enhancements for farmers is nothing short of incredible.

“Just everything that the farmer has done, I’m amazed at how they have adapted quickly and accepted the technology that’s available to them. Most of it was necessary to do in order to stay in the business,” he explained. “Even though it has changed so much over the years, I still think it’s one of the success stories in business that isn’t told enough.”

Ellis began his career in agriculture research at the University of Illinois’ Extension service in 1955. He worked in Marshall, Putnam and Stark counties before making his move into Bureau County.

In those days, the research, knowledge and new methods were not at the fingertips of farmers like they are today. Therefore, the extension office played a huge role in assisting farmers with problem solving and providing them with the most efficient techniques to produce larger quantities at the best quality.

Ellis worked side-by-side with all of the Bureau County Master Farmers, who tapped into his knowledge to discover their own success they are known for today.

Looking at how much more farmers can produce these days is amazing to Ellis.

“I can remember my father bragging that he had 100-bushels of corn per acre, and now if it’s only 200, we think maybe we got shorted a little bit,” he said. “Soybean yields at 25 to 30-a bushel were a pretty good soybean yield, and now we’re seeing yields twice that and maybe more sometimes. It’s because of the research and better farming practices we now have today.”

One of the biggest changes in farming Ellis has noted over the years is the stakes have gotten a lot higher.

“The farmer today has to worry a lot about marketing and has to apply himself to how they are going to market what they are going to produce because the cost and the stakes — it’s like a poker game,” he said.

Looking into the future of farming, Ellis is confident farmers will continue to move forward with the advancements in agriculture. His advice for farmers is they need to continue to adapt to the technologies available in genetics, machinery and methods on handling soil and water to stay efficient.

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