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John Moss ’07 left his desk as a software developer to return to his roots on the family cranberry farm – but he didn’t leave his tech life behind completely. Photo by Katherine Rodeghier and used by kind permission.

Tech Developer Turns to Farming

What do you get when you cross a tech wizard and a philosopher? How about a cranberry farmer?

John Moss ’07, a fourth-generation farmer at Elm Lake Cranberry Co. near Wisconsin Rapids, is a unique combination of multiple interests channeled through the liberal arts.

Moss didn’t plan on studying logic, but ended up majoring in both philosophy and computer science at St. Norbert College. His entrepreneurial side took off in his senior year. He met a friend in philosophy class and the two did website and advertising work, providing travel recommendations in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin.

That’s how Moss got into technology: finding solutions for improving daily life.

But desk work as a software developer started to wear on him: “I’m a social person,” he says. With some discernment, Moss decided to return to the land.

“The thing about farming is that every day is something different,” describes Moss. “It tends to repeat every year, having different work throughout the seasons. When I was in software consulting, seasons and the weather didn’t matter. You’re programming no matter what the outside world is doing.”

So in 2014, Moss returned to his roots: “The reason that I got into technology in the first place was growing up on the farm, wanting to help the farm. I sat down with my parents and had a long conversation about their plans and the future of the farm and how I fit into that.”

Working on the family farm as a teenager, Moss would dream about how he could make things run better, quicker or more efficiently. “When you’re out there doing 40 hours of weed-pulling a week, you have a lot of time to think!”

Developing a philosopher’s mind at a young age, Moss recalls, “I’ve always been asking big questions my whole life.” He continues, “Philosophy translates into every business: communication skills, business plan, everything that has to come together with logic.” 

Moss uses this logic in problem-solving, integrating technology in agriculture, and has developed two apps now in use on the farm. One application, called GrowerOne, monitors and controls the irrigation system from a smartphone. The other application, called Blossom, is a record-keeping system for cranberry farming, holding everything from crop and fertilizer information to equipment tracking and maintenance. Elm Lake Cranberry Co. uses both applications privately, but Moss hopes to roll out Bossom by the end of the year for other farmers to utilize. 

Returning to farming was also a family decision. With young kids, spending time together became more of a priority. Now Moss, his wife and five daughters live side by side with his parents and grandparents on the farm’s main road.

As a farmer, family man and tech developer, Moss uses his St. Norbert College training and entrepreneurial mind for innovation in agriculture. “It’s a blast,” he says. 

Oct. 31, 2018