Downwind"Ag Literacy Pillar 1"
I was disposing of some piles of old papers (“spring cleaning” every 20 years), and I ran across the American Farm Bureau Federation Foundation for Agriculture document shown below:
“Whoa,” I thought as I reviewed the six pillars listed. Those are some good thought pillars!
Rather than throw the pillars list away, I decided to “recycle” by using a pillar each month in this column and sharing stories and connections to each of these pillars that come to mind. Recycling is the key to saving the environment I’m told and now I have a writing topic for the next few months!
Pillar 1: The Relationship Between Agriculture and the Environment
It is simple. Agriculture lives in and intersects with the environment all the time. Definitely a close relationship. Soil, water, and air as crucial resources for farmers are a regular and continual focus by farmers for care and protection.
Soil conservation practices are used by farmers with the goal of keeping the soil where it belongs, on the farm and not in the waterways, ditches, streams, rivers, and air. Farmers want “gully washers” to be a term of the past.
My stepson was recently sharing how hilarious he found it that his grandmother used the term “gully washer” following the series of heavy rainstorms that we saw at the end of June. The term became a Midwestern lexicon for a good reason.
Farmers seek ways for heavy rainfall to soak into the ground as opposed to roll quickly off and take precious soil with it.
Groundwater and surface water is also a major focus of attention by farmers. Farmers and their families and livestock drink the water. Farmers, crops, trees, and grass depend on water. They certainly want water that is clean, healthy, and plentiful. The same can be said about the fresh country air. The importance farmers place on the protection and health of these natural resources is huge.
Both simple and complex water and air conservation concepts are commonplace on Illinois farms. Like kids turning off the tap when brushing their teeth, these conservation protection approaches have become second nature on the farm.
75% of the habitat for wildlife in the state of Illinois can be found on Illinois farms or maintained and managed by Illinois farmers. Farmers provide habitat by maintaining woods and timber, pastures, fencerows, waterways, and even in their crop fields (Not as popular for farmers!).
That still leaves 25% of the wildlife habitat to be created and maintained by homeowners, public lands, companies, and government. From someone who has collided with deer a few times in my life, let’s not encourage keeping and the maintaining of wildlife on our Illinois roads. [That reminds me of the story of the lady who called a radio show asking why deer crossing signs need to be posted along roads. She encouraged taking those deer crossing signs down so the deer would no longer cross there.]
That word “sustainability” has become overused word by many, and people have applied many different meanings to it. Certainly, many of the definitions of sustainability are attached to Illinois family farms, bringing great value to long-term maintenance, protection, and care of the environment.
It can be easy to point a finger at what other people should be doing to save the planet. However, it is more difficult to seek the positives, celebrate similarities, work together, and reflect internally on solutions. Residents and citizens of Cook County are taking into consideration environmental impacts of daily choices…the same is true for farmers every day.
Next month: Pillar 2: The Relationship Between Agriculture and Food, Fiber, and Energy