Connected Nation

On the road with MIHI: Why connecting America's farms, ranches is critical for us all

March 01, 2023 Jessica Denson Season 4 Episode 6
Connected Nation
On the road with MIHI: Why connecting America's farms, ranches is critical for us all
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On this episode of Connected Nation, we wrap-up our look at the Michigan Connected Future Tour—an ambitious 40-stop listening tour focused on  internet access in Michigan.

You'll  hear from two people in the ag industry about why internet connectivity on America’s ranches and farms is something every one of us should be concerned about.

Related links:
MI Connected Future Tour Schedule -
Michigan High-Speed Internet Office -

Part 1 - On the road with MIHI: 40 stops, thousands of miles, hundreds of opinions
Part 2 - On the road with MIHI: Hear from those who will help shape a statewide internet connectivity plan
Part 3 - On the road with MIHI: Tackling the question of affordable access for all 

Jessica Denson, Host  (00:02):

This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods.


On today's podcast, we head back to Michigan for part four of our look at the Michigan Connected Future Tour, an ambitious 40 stop listening tour focused on internet access across the state of Michigan. It's being conducted by the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office, also called My High.


Today we talk with two people involved in the ag industry. You'll hear from a representative with Michigan's Farm Bureau and a man who is still working the farm. His great-grandfather once tilled about why internet connectivity on America's ranches and farms is something every one of us should be concerned about. I'm Jessica Denson, and this is Connected Nation.

Nat sound of conference (00:58):

What is the Digital Equity Act? What is the My Connected Future Listening Tour that we are now?

Jessica Denson, Host  (01:03):

 I'm Jessica Denson and I've been on the road following the, my high listening tour working

Nat sound of conference (01:07):

Lot questions and then next steps. And

Jessica Denson, Host  (01:09):

Then today's listening session is being held in Benton Harbor, which is located in Berrien County. It sits in the southwest corner of the state along Lake Michigan. This stop is taking place in a large conference room at Lake Michigan College and includes people from all kinds of backgrounds, from retirees to college students. Among those in attendance are Jeanie Cobell, who is a member of the Michigan Farm Bureau and Guy Truk, a farmer who works land that's been in his family for generations. Everybody paints. They explained to me why improving internet connectivity across rural areas, especially to fields and pastures, is critical. Not just for the American farmers and ranchers success, but for their survival. And that translates into whether many of us get the food we need for ourselves and our families.

Jennie Koebell, MI Farm Bureau (02:02):

Agriculture relies on technology. Everything from the GPS systems and our tractor cabs to, um, our systems back home on the farm where we're keeping track of everything and uploading the data to our vendors. Um, same thing as everybody and every other line of work. You know, it's a, it's a global technology and we need information now.

Jessica Denson, Host (02:25):

And that includes everything from better crops to herd health, to absolutely dairy milking, right?

Jennie Koebell, MI Farm Bureau (02:32):

Yeah, absolutely. Yep.

Jessica Denson, Host (02:34):

So what does it mean for a farmer or a family farm that is not connected right now? How does that hurt them?

Jennie Koebell, MI Farm Bureau (02:40):

Um, you can really lose out on your market share in a hurry. Um, you know, if you're pricing, uh, loads of grain and it's happened in real time off the cbot, um, you need to have that information. Now. If you're an hour behind the markets, you're losing thousands of dollars sometimes.

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (02:56):

Um, I grew up on a 900 acre dairy farm. My dad and brother still farm below over a thousand acres. And what she's saying is absolutely true. And the first thing that came out was what I thought of was, was marketing at corn prices. You know, they sat there and, and hesitated at a day and, and essentially lost 50 cents a bushel. Well, a thousand bushel, one truck load, and then you're talking, you know, some coin now. So that, that's where it is. And then, and everybody relies on the internet now. It's like our phone system I was, uh, saying earlier was so bad that you can't even run a fax machine <laugh> down on the farm. It won't, it won't go through.

Jessica Denson, Host (03:44):

So when you were saying about the 50 cents bushel, sh it really can make or break a family farm or just any farm really, to not have access to when those prices are low or high, it changes,

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (03:55):

Right? Oh yeah. Similar to

Jessica Denson, Host (03:56):

Like a stock market does. Yeah. Only hour

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (03:58):

By the hour. Oh yeah. By the hour. And uh, now you look at the, as soon as the grain prices go up, there's a lot of times you can make better money on $5 corn than you can on $7 corn, cuz as soon as it goes $7. So as the fertilizer, so the chemicals, and it's almost like they're a bunch of leeches on you that, uh, as soon as it goes up, all those prices go up and,

Jessica Denson, Host (04:24):

Uh, so you really need to stay in

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (04:25):

Tune. You need to Yeah.

Jessica Denson, Host (04:26):

Explain why it's important for farmers to connect and, uh, have that connection with the Farm Bureau.

Jennie Koebell, MI Farm Bureau (04:33):

With Farm Bureau. Well, because Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization, so we start at the county level with the farmers here in Buren, but our voice is heard through our policy all the way up to Af F B F. Um, we just had our af Fbf convention in Puerto Rico. I was there and chatted with Zippy and, um, it was talked about there. E every farmer in every state in the union needs to have connectivity. Um, it's, it's imperative to our livelihoods. And, you know, when you have less than 2% of the population growing all of the food for the other 98%, we need to do as efficient a job as we can. And a lot of that relies on current, uh, information up to date by the minute.

Jessica Denson, Host (05:19):

And so your family, you said it was a family farm? Yeah. Uh, how long have you lived there your whole life?

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (05:24):

I've, yeah. What's that? Yeah, my dad, uh, he moved up there. It was, uh, one of the old BB farms, uh, that they had over 3000 acres at runtime, but he moved up in 1950 and he's still out running combines and 300 horsepower tractors.

Jessica Denson, Host (05:40):

What, what do you mean by BB farm? Explain

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (05:42):

That. Uh, that was, uh, the own, the, the family. They had a big mansion up here off of Pipestone, up in Baton Harbor with a circular marble staircase. Oh wow. Everything else. But, uh, yeah, they had, uh, farms down in Niles and Dewa Jack and,

Jessica Denson, Host (05:58):

Uh, explain to someone who's never lived on a farm or grown up a farm, why is it a great life?

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (06:04):

Um, individuality freedom. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and self responsibility. Um, I started driving a semi and it was actually legal back in the day when I was 17 years old. Oh, wow. Hauling grain to Chicago in a semi with a 40 foot trailer. Oh,

Jessica Denson, Host (06:23):


Guy Troxell, Farmer  (06:23):

<laugh>. I was 16. My dad sent me to, uh, Lansing for a, uh, school, for a new grain dryer we had. And he says, here's the address, here's the directions and how to get there. You're 16 head

Jessica Denson, Host (06:37):

On and now you need a, a MapQuest to get anywhere, right? Yeah. No one uses maps anymore. And a lot of those semis have, um, internet connections too, I believe. Uh, yes. That's how they track 'em, right? Yeah,

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (06:48):

Yeah, yeah. And, uh, I actually, uh, did a st I worked at, uh, cook Nuclear Plant and Maintenance Department for a while until I wanted my sanity back <laugh>, but, uh, decided to leave there. But when, when I, uh, hired in there, they said they loved farm kids cause they knew how to work, <laugh> knew how to think on their

Jessica Denson, Host (07:08):

Own. So explain to someone how important it's now for us as a, a country to really work on connecting our farms. How critical is it?

Guy Troxell, Farmer  (07:22):

It's everything. If you sit there and you, you look at everything and everybody in their day, everyday life, their bank wants you to sit there and do everything online, social security, your government does, the state does. Everybody wants it online. And if you don't have that kind of bigo, you're limited. You can't, you're doing paperwork and trying to sit there and with the mailing system the way it is, you know, you're, you're two weeks out. That's something that could take you 10 minutes to do it.

Jessica Denson, Host (07:57):

Well, it sounds like they're getting started and I don't want you to miss your opportunity to share what you feel. So thank you so much, guy. Okay. And Jeanie, say thank you so much, then

Jessica Denson, Host  (08:04):

We'll go ahead. The feedback and input gathered from this and other listening sessions will be incorporated into a five year connectivity plan that the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office is developing for the state. For more details on where the listening tour will be headed next, or to get materials to facilitate your own community meeting, see the links in the description of this podcast. I'm Jessica Enson. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and wanna know more about us, head to connect or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.


Farm Bureau Rep on why everyone should care about farm onn
Listening Tour
Farm Bureau Rep on internet connectivity
Farmer on connectivity
Why everyone should care that farms, ranches are connected
Farm life
Other reasons farmers need internet