Digital Farmer uses technology to improve farm operation, educate public
MARATHON ‒ After graduating from high school, Adam Baumann earned a degree in Web Design and Programming and made the decision to work off the farm. When his life-long love for farming called him back home to join his family in the business Twin-B Farms, he brought with him technology skills and immediately set out to apply those skills to their farming systems.
Today Baumann is a fourth-generation farmer who farms with his dad and uncle on an 1100-acre farm in Marathon, Wisconsin. Together they produce corn, soybeans, small grains, ginseng and beef.
He admits that the speed at which he implemented technology on the operation turned out to be difficult for his dad and uncle to operate the machines as they had in the past. As a result, Baumann finds himself running much of the equipment on the farm. However, he says his dad is eager to learn the new technology and expects the senior Baumann to take the controls once more.
Not only has technology helped Baumann to modernize the family farm, he also finds technology useful in educating non-farmers about the realities of modern agriculture thanks to social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
Longing to be a voice in their community, Baumann said he first needed to overcome his fear of being on camera. In the end he says it has been worth it. HIs videos and posts have reached an audience across the country who follow and interact with the Facebook page Twin-B Farms-The Digital Farmer and YouTube channel The Digital Farmer.
Twin-B Farms has hosted public relations events including June Dairy Breakfast and the “Central Wisconsin Summer Event Sale” for 11 years. Baumann also enjoys making videos on the farm which he says have been viewed around the world. He has received messages and questions and enjoys sharing with these viewers.
He also posts almost daily on his Facebook page to keep people up-to-date on what is happening on the farm. The page provides him lot of interaction with readers and an opportunity to answer many questions.
Most impactful thing
The young farmer is proud of the mentorship program he participates in at their local high school.
“It is the most impactful thing I have been a part of. I'm able to take in students during the school year and mentor them here on the farm," Baumann said. "I not only teach them the job but have also formed great relationships with these students. I love watching them learn and grow.”
He is a part of a local farm group that gathers in winter months to discuss all aspects of farming from simple tillage practices to the marketing of their crops. Everyone in the group who is trying new techniques are eager to share their experiences, particularly when it comes to protecting and improving the soil.
“My biggest challenge is the short growing season in this area which makes it hard to establish a cover crop after harvest,” he said.
Despite the abbreviated growing season, Baumann continues to look for ways to meet this challenge, whether that means using a different blend of covers or looking for different methods of application.
As an early adopter of cover crops in his area, the Marathon producer has learned a lot along the way. Using his innovative skills, he built a cover crop seeder from a Gandy orbit air and a cultivator bar. He recently modified it to inter-seed corn at v2-v3 stage by adding rotary hoes between the corn rows to help with cover crop germination by giving it better seed to soil contact.
Along the way in his cover crop journey, Baumann discovered he was unable to get the best possible seed placement with their corn/bean planter when planting into full cover crops. This realization lead him to plant cover crops in strips in fall. This allowed for planting corn and beans into a clear row while still enjoying the benefits of covers.
“By modernizing the equipment and through soil sampling we are able to go from broad acre fertilizer spreading to banding,” he says. "This coincides with variable rate planting and variable rate fertilizer application which their planter is set up to do.
“By putting the nutrients next to the seed and at the right rate and the right time I can be confident we can grow a good crop without waste,” he added.
Baumann has also modified equipment for use in the ginseng business. As a niche crop, there are few manufacturers of equipment so he has built many fertilizer applicators, bed-making machines, and sprayers to name a few. The equipment he crafted or modified was customized to their own operation and needs.
“The most successful change was the way the gardens are made initially,” he explains. “The old way involved manual marking and I noticed many gardens were not square which led to difficulty covering them.”
He uses a high accuracy RTK GPS signal on the tractor and a custom toolbar that he built to mark out the ginseng garden, making the process faster and more accurate.
Always looking to gain more information on improving their crops, Baumann also partners with Bayer Crop Science, with their farm serving as one of two locations in Wisconsin that has a corn and soybean variety plot. This helps the Baumann's remain on the cutting edge of new seed varieties to help give them the best yield and return on investment.
Excited about the future of ag
Baumann credits his wife, Melissa, a first-grade teacher at their local school, as being the “rock of their family.” The couple has two children, Brady, 10 and Emma, 6.
Besides teaching school and raising their children, Baumann jokes that Melissa often plays taxi, giving him rides from fields to the farm and back, keeps everyone fed during busy times and provides experiences for their children on the farm. She plants all their sweet corn and pumpkins, and keeps a very large garden while educating their children on the various vegetables they grow.
It’s because of this growing family that he is excited about the future of agriculture. While his initial goals when entering farming were to raise his family on the farm and to improve some equipment and practices, as the years have passed, his goals have come to include finding ways to improve the land for future generations and educating non-farmers about modern day agriculture.