Down on the Farm

Mr. & Mrs. Brown

“I LIKE horses”, said Farmer Brown.  “I’ve always used horses to do the plowing; my daddy always used horses to do the plowing; and his daddy before him always used horses to do the plowing.  I UNDERSTAND horses.  I know how to take care of horses.  The barn is set up for the horses.  I have a pasture for horses, with a fence that my farmhands fix regularly.   I have hay fields that we work to produce hay for the horses.  We know HOW to produce the hay. ”

“I just don’t WANT a tractor.  I don’t know how to drive a tractor.  My farmhands don’t know how to take care of tractors.  We’d have to get gas.”

“Beyond all that, tractors are EXPENSIVE!  And times are hard.  I’ve already had to let a number of the farmhands go; but the work keeps piling up.”

“Now, I’ll grant you that the tractor doesn’t get tired or sick.  Sure, it can pull a plow that is three times the weight a horse can pull and can do a whole lot of other things besides plowing.  Yes; it’s also a lot easier to put away and doesn’t take up near as much room.  And I’ll also grant that gas is a lot less expensive than all that hay; leave aside the cost of the pasture and the hay fields.”

“Of course, we COULD get a tractor AND keep the horses.  That way, we’d get the productivity advantages of the tractor, and we would still have the comfort of having our horses around.  The best of both worlds.”

“Also, unfortunately, the expense of both worlds,” pointed out Mrs. Brown, who keeps the farm books.  

For some reason, Farmer Brown neglected to thank her for her observation.  He continued on, exclaiming,  “I’m a good farmer.  I know the soil; I know what to plant, when to plant, how to irrigate and fertilize, when to harvest, how to market.  I produce good crops.  I’m a GOOD farmer!”

“No one says you’re not a good farmer, dear, ” said Mrs. Brown.  “In fact, everyone knows you’re an excellent farmer.  But to be the best farmer you can be, shouldn’t you run the best farm possible?”

“Well, sure.  But to tell you the truth, I’m more than a little afraid of tractors.  I’m afraid that, because I don’t understand them, they’ll start dictating how I’m supposed to farm.”

“Oh,” interrupted Mrs. Brown. “Will a tractor change our climate?  Will it change the soil?  Will it change what produce people will buy?”

“No; of course not,” Farmer Brown admitted.

Mrs. Brown sighed.  “Dear, the fact is that in some ways it WILL change how you farm.  For example, the back forty, that you have left fallow because you haven’t had time and horse teams enough to work it; you’ll probably start working it.  That will bring in more crops, which means you’ll need to expand the silo.   And I expect there will be other changes, too.  You’ll want to learn to drive the tractor.  The farmhands will need to learn to maintain it.  We’ll have to get gas. 

What it WON’T change is that the farm needs a good farmer.  And it won’t change the fact that you ARE a good farmer.”

“Well, could I NAME the tractor?”

  *   *   *   *   *   * 

 Key to decoding the above parable: 

  • Farmer = Judge
  • Horses = Paper-based records system
  • Plowing = Reading and Signing
  • Barn = Courthouse
  • Pasture = File Room
  • Fence = Paper record security
  • Hay = Court processes for using paper records
  • Soil, irrigation, fertilization = The justice system, the law, process and procedure, people
  • Crops – Decisions
  • Tractor = Electronic Content Management System
  • Gas = ECMS processes with configurable workflow
  • Back Forty – Programs like specialty (eg, Drug, Family) courts

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