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Modes of Ag Transportation

This week during our virtual ag classroom we will be focusing on transportation in agriculture. The definition of transportation is the movement of people or goods from one place to another.

To begin ask yourself the following questions; How does food get to the grocery store? Who transports our food? What are the truck drivers hauling on the interstate? What are the different modes of agriculture transportation?

According to our National Ag in the Classroom lesson, By Land, Air or Sea, the term supply chain is used to describe the sequence of processes involved in the production, processing, and distribution of a commodity (a product of agriculture that can be bought or sold). Transportation is essential to agriculture! Goods are delivered all over the world, even to some regions that cannot produce certain foods. For example, in Iowa our citrus fruit is grown in warm climates and brought to us.

The main modes of transporting products include; trucks, trains, airplanes, and barges.


Did you know, there are over 32 million trucks on the road everyday? Trucks provide an efficient way to transport agriculture goods. Specific trailers are designed to haul different commodities from the farm, to the factory and then to the grocery store.


A van trailer, also know as a box trailer is fully enclosed and will protect the goods from rain, snow and wind.


A hopper trailer is used to haul grain in bulk. The top is open when filling and then often covered with a tarp. Hopper trailers have one or two hoppers on the base of the trailer to unload the product. The trailer is light weight in order to maximize bushels transported.


A reefer trailer is a refrigerated shipping container for transporting perishables. Similarly, tanker trailers have special insulation to keep milk and other liquids cold.


A livestock trailer is designed to haul animals safely from the farm to their destination. There are different styles of livestock trailers depending on if you are hauling cattle, pigs, poultry, etc. The holes help to keep air flow moving in the trailer but they come with plugs if it is a cold or wet day.


Flatbed trailers are used to transport large equipment and likewise, hay trailers are used to haul large round bales.


Did you know, reefer rail cars have been used to transport perishable goods since 1860! Other rail cars haul dry goods and coal. The rail car sits on a set of tracks made of steel rails and plays an important part in transporting goods across great distances.


When I was younger we would travel to Guttenberg and watch the barges come in on the Mississippi River. It was always a neat site to see! A barge is a flat bottomed vessel that is used to carry cargo from one major production area to another. A barge travels typically on canals and rivers. Barges can be self-propelled, pushed or towed.


Cargo planes are used to transport high value and perishable products and is the fastest mode of transportation. Also known as freight aircraft, the plane typically has one or more large doors for loading and unloading the cargo.

Transportation has evolved over the years and so has our tracking systems! Now our goods are marked with scanners that help keep track of estimated delivery time and date. GPS has also greatly improved deliveries!

What is your biggest take away? Which mode interests you the most? How important is transportation to agriculture?

Visit the National Ag in the Classroom website to view the complete By Land, Air or Sea lesson plan and follow us on Facebook to participate in transportation STEM activities!

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