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Helping Agriculture in a Time of Change

Posted Sep. 30, 2009

During his life in the early part of the 20th century, Lloyd Noble saw Oklahoma's agricultural heritage almost blow away in the Dust Bowl.

In 1945, the visionary oilman and philanthropist saw a significant way to assist agricultural producers struggling to meet the many economic, environmental and social challenges. He established Noble Research Institute to provide support and education for farmers and ranchers in an effort to better their lives and secure the land for future generations.

Since the Noble Research Institute's inception, the agriculture industry has grown and evolved in ways unimagined during Noble's time. Technology has improved the means by which we conduct the day-to-day business of farming and ranching, providing everything from satellite-guided tractors to plant biotechnology and improved crop productivity. Modern plant breeding practices - in crops like corn - have given rise to hybrid varieties that annually increase the productivity of America's shrinking agricultural acreage. And improved animal genetics, production and health practices continue to allow the U.S. to produce the world's highest quality beef.

In short, today's agriculture industry has fused the latest expertise with a heritage of determination and a loyalty to the land, producing the finest resource management and food production the world has ever witnessed. The Noble Research Institute is proud to have played a role in this process. For almost 65 years, we've recognized and assessed the latest trends and technologies, and provided careful guidance and insight to producers in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas. Many of these producers have seen their operations improve as well as their lives.

Still, we again find ourselves awash in another wave of change. The 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture revealed shifts in the size and makeup of regional farms and ranches within our region. In western Oklahoma, the total number of farms is shrinking, but the average farm size is growing. One explanation for this occurrence is that as the producer population retires, they are selling their land to their neighbors, resulting in fewer farmers with more land.

In the central portion of our service area (north of Dallas/Fort Worth, along the Interstate 35 corridor), we're seeing the number of small farms greatly increase. As retiring farmers transfer their land, it is being subdivided and sold to a new and increasing number of "rural lifestyle" operators. These individuals typically live and work in an urban setting, but desire a refuge outside the city. For these new potential farmers and ranchers, owning and operating this land can be a trying experience.

It's during transitional eras like this that the Noble Research Institute's efforts become even more important. Agricultural producers, be they hobby, rural lifestyle or generational farmers and ranchers, do not have to meet the many challenges of the agriculture industry alone. With more than 80 employees, the Noble Research Institute's Agricultural Division stands ready to assist both novice and experienced agricultural producers within our service area with its consultation, outreach and educational programs.

Our consultants can help seasoned producers tweak their existing operation or provide a complete management plan to maximize their returns. On the other end of the spectrum, we offer fundamental education and outreach programs to the rural lifestyle producers who may have little foundational knowledge of the industry. We help each producer define their goals for the land and work with them as they seek to achieve their vision.

Moreover, Noble Research Institute agricultural researchers are continuously preparing for tomorrow through our agricultural research program. This program allows the Foundation to address current challenges facing the agriculture industry as well as identify solutions to anticipated challenges. Our consultants often receive questions that have never been addressed through scientific research. These questions are passed to the research team, which can then build and execute projects to provide quality answers to these real-world situations.

As with the past 65 years, the Noble Research Institute recognizes that the experiences of the past can combine with the technologies, ideas and inspirations of today to keep agriculture productive for future generations.