Like many 4-year-old boys raised on the farm nowadays, my son Ethan is obsessed with farming videos on YouTube. He loves the realistic ones, where the channel host is actually farming. He also loves the ones where the hosts are playing farming video games – literally filming themselves playing a video game. He also loves the ones where kids are playing with farming toys. I don’t get it – why doesn’t he play with the toys himself? But like most preschoolers, he doesn’t deign to ask my opinion on his viewing choices. He loves his farming videos, and as I learned, he is quite a critic.

A few weeks ago, I was editing a document to send to some farmers on new things happening in the precision ag world. The article was about the Case IH 5500 Trident applicator. It is the newest debut of driverless, autonomous farm equipment. I watched a couple of videos about it and was impressed. That night I showed the videos to Ethan, thinking he would be equally impressed. I wanted to hear, “That is so cool, Mom. When I grow up, can you buy me one of those?” That is his thing lately – not that he will buy it when he is a grownup but that I will buy him one when he is a grownup. I guarantee he will be disappointed in his inheritance.

Anyway, after he watched the video, instead of excitement or even interest, I got, “That’s OK, I guess. Kind of boring, though.” “Dude,” I said, as he commandeered my phone, looking for Hudson’s Playground on YouTube, “That tractor is driving all by itself. Look at the farmer. He is standing in the field while the tractor goes by itself.” “I know, Mom,” he said while scrolling through the channel to see if anything was new on Farming Sims. “Me and Dad do that all the time.” “Do what all the time?” I say as I take the phone back from him. “Drive all by itself when we are feeding cows.” That catches me off guard and makes me smile.

To think all those equipment manufacturers and engineers thought they were doing something special. To Ethan’s estimation, their technology is not new or even mildly exciting. It was exciting the first time he saw Dad push the lever into 4-low on the pickup and then hop out to flake the hay to the cows. Now to Ethan, the truck, or anything for that matter, driving “by itself” is perfectly normal. The truck bumps through the corrugated pasture, the steering wheel rocks a bit, all while the driver seat stays empty – all perfectly practical, everyday cow feeding. Shouldn’t it be just as easy for a fertilizer spreader? Or so the 4-year-old reasons.


Sorry, Case, you must do better to impress the 4-year-old farm video critic. The 20th century technology of four-wheel drive has your state-of-the-art autonomous technology beat in my little guy's eyes. All I can think – long live cowboys and their ingenuity.