Friday, April 22, 2016

Farmers: The First Environmentalists

For 45 years, environmentalists have celebrated Earth Day. It's today - April 22 - by the way. Here on the County Line, we will celebrate Earth Day just like we do pretty much every other day on this wonderful planet. We'll be caring for the earth and the creatures it shelters.
Cow-calf pairs arrive at the Ninnescah Pasture
Farmers are the world's first environmentalists. They've been the caretakers from the time God gave man authority over the plants and animals of the earth. However, some of the loudest voices from the environmental community will tell you that modern agriculture is killing the planet. They denounce herbicides and pesticides and fungicides. They think meat production is creating too big a carbon footprint. They want a return to overall-clad farmers hitching up their teams of horses or oxen to work the ground to produce solely organic products. (By the way, I have nothing against farmers in overalls. Overalls were the "uniform" of choice for my Grandpa Neelly who lived to be 100 and would have taken his cow herd to the rest home, if they would have let him. I also have nothing against organic foods or farmers. There is a place for every kind of farmer - from conventional to organic.)

This morning, Randy is taking maps to the Kanza Co-op so our wheat fields can be sprayed with fungicide. While this week's rain gave our ailing 2016 wheat crop a much-needed boost, it also prompted disease formation.
Let me tell you: It's not an inexpensive venture to treat a wheat crop with fungicide. When we consider the cost of all the inputs compared to the price we'll get at the elevator, there's a thin margin. And we also have to go on faith that the crop will make it to harvest with enough well-timed rain, avoiding any accompanying hailstorms or other of the myriad of scenarios that could impact it negatively. We definitely aren't doing it "just because" there is such a product available today. We are doing it to be good managers of our crop.

At a wheat profitability conference back in 2010, I heard Dr. Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute speak. (Click here for the entire blog post.) He said, in part:
"Set aside time in your life to promote agriculture to those who don't understand it. The greatest problem with agriculture today isn't the volatility of the price of inputs. It's not the volatility of prices. It's the negative attitude toward farming. Environmental zealots want to convince the public that you are spoiling the land.

"You need to become an agriculture activist.
... We need to let people know that if we don't use herbicides and insecticides, people across the globe will starve.
"Let people know that despite "news" to the contrary, the family farm is not dead. There are 2 million farms in the U.S. Only 1 percent are owned by absentee organizations.

"We need to tell people that we are the best land conservationists. We produce three times more food than we did 40 years ago with greater yields on less land.

"We need to let people know that every day is Earth Day on the farm, not just April 22."
Who better to appreciate the earth and its resources than the nation's farmers and ranchers? We recently took some pairs to the Ninnescah Pasture for an early start to their summer "vacation" there. It was a beautiful, overcast day. The wild mustard made a pretty backdrop for some "family photos."

We first hauled the babies to the pasture, then we went back for their mamas. Each time we drove through the gate under the branches of a towering old cottonwood, I was struck by the beauty of the landscape at this pasture, a place that Randy has been renting to use for cow-calf pairs for nearly 40 years.
It's a great privilege to run cattle at this beautiful place. It's in the best interest of our family, our farming operation, the land owners and the creatures we care for to appreciate the earth and everything in it.
It's our job.
It's our calling and passion.
We don't take it for granted. From sunrise to sunset and beyond, we celebrate the small moments that can too easily be overlooked. That's what it means to be a farmer on Earth Day and the other 364 days of the year.
I was honored this week to be included on In the Furrow's "Big List of Farmer Blogs." Click on the link to check out the other farm bloggers on the list, which were chosen for doing "a great job of spreading positive messages about all the wonderful things farmers are doing to feed the world." Thanks for making my day, In the Furrow!


  1. Congratulations. From the short time I have been following your blog, I know the honour is well deserved. Your love for the land and the animals shines through.
    Living in the city, it is great to have a regular dose of your country life.

    1. Thank you, Helen. It's been fun to connect across the miles!

  2. You so deserve to be included on the Big List of Farmer Blogs!! Congratulations.

  3. Thank you for telling the story of today's farmers! We cannot approach feeding the world if we use the farming techniques of 40 years ago. I enjoyed seeing your wild mustard photos, too!

    1. I, too, love the look of the wild mustard. It reminds me of a quote attributed to Winnie the Pooh: "Weeds are beautiful, too, once you get to know them." They are pretty, even if the cattle won't eat them.

  4. Wonderful post, Kim
    You all truly are 'Stewards of the Land' and we thank you.