Celebrate Earth Day; thank a farmer

Most Americans pay little attention to Earth Day.

As a celebratory experience, Earth Day probably ranks lower than Columbus Day, Arbor Day and even Groundhog Day—the latter defies any and all logic.

Earth Day may be more popular than Richter Scale Day (no I did not make that up), National Hairball Day (that one either), but could be close with Babe Ruth Day.

I’m not certain of the origins of Earth Day. I could Google it and find out but it’s almost five o’clock and the beginning is not the point. The point is, Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, and I expect no big hullabaloo around Denton, Texas, to celebrate this event. Some towns may host Earth Day parades and totally ignore the irony of burning gasoline to move floats along the parade route or the cost of cleaning up discarded rubbish tossed on the ground by onlookers.

I suspect there will be some gatherings to recognize environmental achievements. Some folks may plant some trees; work in their gardens; or groups may discuss the need to conserve water and curb pollution.

I don’t disagree with any of those objectives. In fact, I do what I can to recycle; use as little water as possible to maintain my lawn; and I try to keep the house at a reasonably comfortable temperature without wasting energy.

As anyone who routinely reads my commentaries knows, I do appreciate the wonders of a pristine stream teeming with trout and the sanctuary of a shade tree in hot weather. I am disgusted with anyone who leaves bottles, cans, and other garbage on my riverbanks. I try to pack stuff out when I find it.

But if I really want to get a sound appreciation for what the earth is all about, I only have to drive out into the country and see fields of wheat turning from an emerald green to a dusty amber this time of year. Or I can watch cattle munching on lush pastures (in some parts of the Southwest). The profusion of bluebonnets my wife and I enjoyed near Ennis, Texas, a few weeks ago provided a colorful reminder of the earth’s wonder and beauty.

And I know of no one closer to the earth than the many farmers and ranchers I have been privileged to meet and interview over the past 35 or so years. I’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone who works closer with the earth or depends more on what it provides than those who work the soil.

They understand the fragility of the land. They appreciate the interactions of sun, soil and water. Farmers and ranchers value, more than most, the delicate balance between harvest and conservation. They understand the damage possible by neglecting their valuable soil and water resources. They know what organic matter means to their fields and how the earthworm population can be a barometer of soil health.

Agriculturists live in closer proximity to the earth than do the critics who complain about how farmers ruin the environment. But farmers know the ground—know what it will bring forth and what it requires in turn. They know that water is a limited resource and that judicious use makes sense now and for the next generation to whom they hope to pass it along.

Farmers have a relationship with the earth that most of us can neither fully appreciate nor adequately understand. Some years the earth yields up a bountiful crop. And some years, such as 2011, it cedes harvest grudgingly. But farmers persist and they work hard to preserve the resources that make their livelihood possible.



TAGS: Management
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