CATLIN — The Church family has farmed in and around Vermilion County for five generations, starting as most growers did with horses trudging through fields to plow and seed. But fast-forward several decades and there’s a buzz around the Church fields this year — literally.
Father-son farmers Scott and Jared Church have taken to the skies this growing season by adding to their tractors and planters a new implement — a drone.
The neon green-and-white Ag Pro Scout from Aerial Media Pros in California is an X-shaped craft that measures a little more than a foot across. But with Jared Church at the controls, the small four-rotor device toting a Go Pro camera beneath it already has turned into an important tool for the family's farming.
“This is going to be the next new thing, like auto steering was the next thing 10 years ago,” he said. “You’re going to see more in advancements in cameras that are affordable that we can put on that to analyze crop situations.
“We’re just trying to maximize every bushel we can possibly get,” he added.
In the past, checking out a field usually meant driving around it, walking through it or going up in a plane for a fly-over.
“You still need to do that, but this gives you a whole new perspective from the air without jumping into an airplane,” he said.
Over property near the family farm shed southwest of Catlin and in Edgar County, Jared said he’s taken the drone up to examine a variety of facets in fields so far this spring and early summer. The wet weather has been a big issue on a number of fronts.
“We’ve gotten so much rainfall that we’ve got a lot of uneven corn,” Church said. “Where the water’s off, it looks beautiful and starting to tassel in a few days.”