Farming might be the last place one might expect to find the open source revolution taking hold. But it has done exactly that in central Kansas, where Chase Turner is the managing partner of a 7,000-acre farm growing irrigated corn and soybeans. Founded by his late father, H. Lee Turner, Chase Turner now directs the operation - among the top four percent of farms in the United States in terms of tillable acreage - from his home in Minnesota, along with family members in California and Colorado.
Running a large farm poses substantial, constant logistical challenges. "As far as business environments go, farming is one of the most complicated," said Turner. "I have 10 full-time employees and four contractors. We hold weekly teleconferences and coordinate group tasks, so we need a secure, remote-hosted groupware server without the administrative headache of defending the machine from attack."
Turner Farms' geographically distributed operations staff is linked to headquarters in Kansas by a range of different network providers, including dialup 28k modems, high-speed cable, and microwave relay.
After a thorough review of alternatives that were rejected due to cost or security concerns, Turner Farms chose SUSE Linux OpenExchange and the remote hosting service by RICIS.com of Chicago, IL.
"We now use SUSE daily in a wide variety of groupware tasks including group calendar, project planning, document and knowledge capture," said Turner. "We are currently laying plans for a common desktop solution from SUSE."
Converting his previously hosted system to Linux was painless. "It was not a hard transition at all. Most of the web interface was self-explanatory. And," he added, "I love the SUSE licensing program. Also, SUSE has a proven track-record of delivering technically correct distributions that are in alignment with Linux community goals and requirements."
"I have greater faith in the safety of our business assets on a Linux-based solution," said Turner. "I also have stronger faith in the open source community to innovate and keep open options to choose integration points rather than an all-in-one solution from a single vendor and its corresponding lock-in strategy."
Ultimately, Turner would like to set up a farm stewardship portal where best practices and analytical data from participating farms can be sliced and diced to the benefit of all to improve regional and national farming practices. "We take very seriously our stewardship of the land for generations to come," he said.
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