More than a Dance

January 26, 2011 06:46 AM

If I asked my 102-year-old Aunt Louise, "What is ChaCha?" she would likely tell stories of dances during her younger years. But ChaCha is more than a dance; it is a new information technology.

chachaChaCha is similar to Google but accessed via text message. It works with virtually every cell phone provider and allows people with any mobile phone (from basic flip phones to advanced smartphones) to ask any question and receive an answer in just a few minutes.

All you do is text your question to 242242 (ChaCha) or call 1-800-2ChaCha (800-224-2242). ChaCha instantly routes your question to the most knowledgeable person on the topic in its Guide community. The answer is then sent to your phone as a text message. ChaCha is free to use. You only pay text messaging rates, if they apply.

Test run. We decided to evaluate ChaCha’s agriculture literacy, and this is what we found:

Farm Journal: What is silage?
ChaCha: Fodder harvested while green and kept succulent by partial fermentation as in a silo.

Farm Journal: What is the normal body temperature of a calf?
ChaCha: The normal core body temperature of a healthy, resting adult human being is 98.6°.

Farm Journal: What is a TMR?
ChaCha: TMR is the abbreviation of tomorrow.

As you can tell, ChaCha’s answers are not perfect. In fact, its knowledge of agriculture doesn’t seem to be too extensive, which is a common problem with mainstream media outlets.

To bridge the gap between agriculture and consumers, many farmers and ranchers are using a variety of social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, to share a slice of life from the farm with the hope that consumers will make a connection with the farm community and better understand production agriculture. Groups such as the AgChat Foundation, which work to give farmers the tools they need to succeed, are important to these grassroot efforts.

Cell phone utility. ChaCha is just one example of the technology evolution in agriculture. Did you know that 62% of high-acreage farmers sent or received a text message in 2009? In fact, 44% of farmers sent pictures from their cell phones, according to the AgChat Foundation.

Farmers also use their cell phones to access social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to advocate for agriculture. When it comes to farm production and marketing, smartphones can remotely operate irrigation systems and access current commodity market analysis.

There are often complications when using technology on the farm, but the benefits outweigh the challenges.

The use of technology in agriculture has evolved with time. In the span of 50 years, we have witnessed new technologies increase efficiency, sustainability and profitability for farmers and ranchers. Radios are now standard in tractors (air conditioners and windshield wipers, too!) and farm families across the country use computers to aid in record keeping. Genome mapping has transformed how scientists study animals and plants, precision farming is now commonplace and
cattle quality grades are determined by using cameras. Profit-minded producers have embraced technology and understand its benefits.

In 50 years, farmers will be feeding twice the current population. The only way to accommodate the vital needs of the world’s population is to continue to increase productivity and efficiency on the farm through technology. It will take all forms of technology to reach consumers with accurate information about food and fiber production.

ChaCha Don'ts

For the most part, ChaCha’s answers are on target and useful. When it comes to the following areas, however, it’s best that you don’t solely base your decision on Cha-Cha’s response:

  • Current market outlooks
  • Instructions on machinery and implement repair
  • Free legal advice
  • Determining the cause of medical symptoms
  • Gift ideas for your significant other


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