Winkle is checking the latest postings on his favorite Internet farm forum.
Advice from fellow farmers around the country has enabled him to increase his corn and soybean production, better market his crops, learn how to rebuild engines and get good tires for his tractor.
Online message boards and chat rooms are replacing rural coffee shops and feed mills as places for farmers to talk farming and trade tips as more of rural America goes online.
"You get the best thinkers in agriculture," Winkle said of the forums. "You're mixing such a diverse group of people -- from different areas, from different backgrounds, different experiences, different ways of farming."
Fifty-one percent of U.S. farms have Internet access, according to a July 2005 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up from 48 percent in 2003.
More than two-thirds of them, however, still use dial-up modems to connect.
The popularity of online farm forums has grown as well, said Mack Strickland, an agricultural engineer at Purdue University and farm-computer expert. Some forums claim to have as many as 30,000 registered users.
The Internet division of Farm Journal Media, www.agweb.com, says user traffic doubled between October 2005 and October 2006, with the forums on the site enjoying similar growth. Traffic on the Des Moines, Iowa-based www.agriculture.com has increased 20 percent to 25 percent over the past year, said editor John Walter. Both are free sites supported by ads.
Enthusiasts say the forums have improved farm production and saved farmers precious dollars by helping them avoid costly mistakes in planting, fertilizing, equipment buys and maintenance. And forums have enabled farmers -- many of them miles from their nearest neighbor -- to educate each other and build community.
"We all like to talk to folks like ourselves who have the same problems," said Stan Ernst, a marketing instructor at Ohio State University's department of agricultural economics. "We have so much riding on many of our decisions economically that you've got to find people with experience."