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Farming in the 21st Century Requires Being Connected

Posted by Lynne Hinrichsen, Kansas State Director, USDA Rural Development in Broadband Rural
Jan 08, 2020
Justin Bebb, owner of Bebb Farms in Altamont, Kansas
Justin Bebb, owner of Bebb Farms in Altamont, Kan., has sold Hoegemeyer seed for nearly 10 years. Bebb Farms primarily sells corn and soybean seed, but has also sold alfalfa and forage sorghum seed as well.

As you step onto Bebb Farms in rural Labette County, Kan., you see tractors, combines, sprayers, grain bins, and semis. All necessary equipment on a Kansas farm, but perhaps the most important equipment you don’t see is the Internet.

Smart phones and high-speed Internet have given farmers, such as Justin Bebb, the opportunity to be more efficient in their farming operations. Whether it’s updating maps with the local crop insurance adjustors, marketing crops, purchasing inputs, online banking, or communicating with customers - it all relies on high-speed Internet.

For more than 20 years, Justin has been farming in Labette County. He is a first-generation farmer that farms alongside his wife, Jennifer, and their two daughters. Bebb Farms is a diversified grain and cattle operation that farms within a 30-mile radius in Labette County. Crops grown on the farm include corn, wheat, and soybeans. They also have a cow-calf operation and background cattle, while also managing a seed business. The farm employs eight individuals.

“Everything we do on the farm is Internet based. Oftentimes during meetings with customers, I go outside of the office and sit on our air conditioner to pull up a map because that is where you have the best Internet signal on the farm,” said Justin. “It’s amazing how much has changed in farming in the last decade and being able to have instant access to on-farm data makes us that much more efficient.”

The current Internet speed at the farm is 3 megabits per second (Mbps), they are excited about the opportunity to have fiber connected to the farm. Bebb Farms is one of numerous farms and nearly 1,400 households covering two school districts in Labette County that will be served through Wave Wireless, LLC’s expansion project.

Wave Wireless, based in Parsons, Kan., will use $5.2 million in financing through USDA Rural Development’s ReConnect Pilot Program to build a Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband network in Labette County with a network capable of simultaneous transmission rates of 100 Mbps or greater.

More than just the impact on production agriculture, Justin notes that he’s excited for the opportunity this brings for students in Labette County. A member of the local school board, Justin cites a former high school FFA instructor as being instrumental in him beginning his farming operation, and this high-speed broadband means the rural Kansas students can have the same connectivity and access to educational opportunities as students in the more urban areas.

Justin’s story really illustrates the impact we’re having in USDA Rural Development here in Kansas. We’re providing the resources so our rural communities can not just grow, but thrive. This foundational investment in rural communities pays dividends not just locally, but on our national economy. When rural America thrives, all of America thrives.

People working at Bebb Farms
In 2019, Bebb Farms added additional on-farm grain bin storage. The additional storage allows the farm to store its grain until the market price has increased.
Category/Topic: Broadband Rural