In January 2011, I featured Social Media in this column. I reread it the other day and thought, “Wow, how things have changed in two years.”

At that point in time I mentioned cell phones and laptops, and used the word “perhaps” in conjunction with smart phone and tablet use on the farm.

For Social Media, I limited the discussion to Facebook, Twitter and blogs and only referred to “applications” once. I noticed that I wrote applications, not apps.

Just three months later, we launched our first app, a Virginia Grown app for Windows Phone 7. Later that year, new apps were cropping up daily. The phrase “There’s an app for that” became a pop culture aphorism and in farming, as in all aspects of life, smart phones, tablets and apps now have changed the way we do business.

I now know of farmers who say they hardly ever open the laptop anymore, because they can conduct most of their farm business on their smartphones. There are many very creative apps for that and farmers are taking full advantage of them.

A lot of farmers use electronic sources, to access market news updates, grain futures and more. Updates hit their phones two or three times a day and farmers can get the latest information on the tractor or at the local café. No more going to the house at lunch to check the market reports.

Farmers can measure field sizes using an app. They can check price reports for livestock or commodities or locate the closest elevators to buy grain. They can look for livestock auctions and view them in real time, or they can use apps as an alternative to yard sales and on-farm auctions to find and buy equipment.

 

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A new smart phone application from the USDA is available as a free download for both iPhone and Android users to access soil survey information. The app, SoilWeb, combines online soil survey information with the GPS capabilities of smart phones. The soil survey information provided in this mobile form is particularly useful for those working in the field.

The Mobile Farm Manager from John Deere gives access to field data from a smart phone or tablet. It can define soil grids, track sample numbers and navigate from one field to the next. Farmers can associate notes to a specific area and analyze operation maps and report from the car, in a meeting or in the field. They can move data easily between the manager on their mobile device and farm management software on the office computer.

A share feature allows farmers to share data easily with trusted service providers and business partners. All this and they don’t even have to leave the tractor cab.

I recently learned of some consumer apps that help save energy, something dear to the heart of most farmers. The Save Energy, Save Money app calculates the energy use of common appliances, and the MeterReadings app allows you to read your electric meter from your phone. Apps, including the UFO Power Center and Energy Hub, allow you to remotely manage the energy use of home appliances to eliminate stand-by power costs.