It was July 1, 1981, when I began my teaching career at Plainview High School.
    I was single and living in a small upstairs apartment in a nearby town. I was excited to begin a new venture but really had no idea of what the future held for me.
    To put things into perspective, the high school had two Texas Instrument computers, both found in the back of the math room.
    One day, I went to the mall in Rochester, and while walking through JCPenney, I saw an alumnus who introduced me to this thing called a microwave. told me what an amazing machine it was and how it could heat food in a very short time without getting the plate hot.
    “Yeah right,” I said.
Well, I bought this medium suitcase sized machine and tried it out. It was amazing. I did not know how to cook and still do not. My wife said I can’t boil water, which is nearly true.
    However, back in the fall of 1981, before the years of my amazing wife, I shared with my parents what a great device this microwave thing was. Of course, they didn’t believe me, so I took it home to their place over Christmas break. I never got it back. I had to buy a new one. It lasted for them for more than a decade.
    The big, bad thing called the internet arrived in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It was for sure going to cause the end of the world, and no way could kids have access to such a monster as dial-up internet in the school system.
    When I joined the Riverland farm management group in December 1997, I had only two farms with a computer. Twenty-four years later and we can not imagine our lives without a microwave, internet, computers and cell phones. How times have changed in less than a quarter of a century. Data circles the globe in seconds, and information is doubled and tripled in a short period of time. Google anything, and I am sure it will have an answer for you.
    New technologies mean new jobs, new skill sets and opportunities but also a whole new set of responsibilities. Even the freedom and rights that come with democracy can’t come without limits and responsibility. We have a right to drive a car, but the laws limit us to certain speeds. We have rights to express our opinions but are limited so not to defame others in the process. Technology is much the same. It provides all sorts of advancements, processing of information, access to knowledge and ability to make faster informed decisions, but we must not lose the moral compass and ethic value that makes farming or a democracy work just because we adapt technology.
    I have noticed a lot of soil erosion this spring. The absence of waterways and contour planting seems to have given way to the technology of larger equipment. It is sad to see the ditches so full of soils, perhaps because a 12- or 24-row planter is easier to operate in long straight rows.
    Metrolina Greenhouses in North Carolina, now celebrating 50 years of business, has a motto – “Innovation, automation or stagnation.”
    Today’s agriculture is anything but stagnant. We have surely seen innovation and automation in GPS cropping systems, robotic milking, ultrasound pregnancy testing and auto-steer tractors. I saw the ability to now light treat weed seeds as they exit the rear of a combine to make them incapable of future germination. Yet with this technology advancement comes responsibilities and obligations to the community and the environment.
    How do we adapt to this rapidly changing technology and yet maintain our value system? How do we transition our farm businesses from a generation of not knowing what a computer is to one where cars and tractors will all but drive themselves, and the answers to many questions can be sought by asking your cell phone?
    May I suggest that the answer may lie in human relations. A legacy of a business or a farm will not be created solely by technology but instead by creating an environment in our homes and workplace that instills and cultures a value system. Family members and employees know their input matters. Family members are told and know they are loved. I see families struggle with the balance of business, technology adaptation, profits versus value systems and family life.
    Can we separate the day-to-day business discussions with the value of getting together for a regularly scheduled family meal or event? A family business treads a fine line: family versus business. The next generation is a quick adaptor of technology but at the end of the day desires even more the value of having input acceptance, guidance and love from the older generation.
    Have you asked the next generation what they want for the future of the farm business? Have you discussed a value system for your operation? When asked, they usually are not afraid to share.
    Tom Anderson is a Farm Business Management faculty member at Riverland Community College.