The last few days social media has been blowing up with Earth Day celebrations. Earth Day was born in 1970 by protestors in response to "the deterioration of the environment," according to EarthDay.org.
This morning on our farm, we will get up and go to work like we always do.
We will check cows that are grazing our crop fields, currently seeded with turnips, radishes, and cereal rye. We refer to that mixture as cover crops, which we've been using on the farm for the last eight years or so, and they provide immeasurable environmental benefit. They reduce our chemical usage, runoff and erosion while increasing our soil organic matter and soil microbes. That means healthier fields and healthier environment surrounding our fields.
The cows grazing those cover crops leave behind their own manure. That means that many of the nutrients and organic matter they ate will be dropped back on the ground our corn and soybeans will be planted in. That reduces our need for synthetic fertilizers - which are safe and effective - but an added expense.
While the cows are grazing, Matt and Steve will be planting. Our corn planters will be running across last year's bean fields that haven't been tilled (or plowed).
Tillage has historically been used to control weeds and break up soil prior to planting. No-till farming means fewer trips with big tractors across our fields which means we shrink our carbon footprint. No-till farming, just like cover crops, also reduces our runoff and soil loss from erosion. No-till farming is healthier for our dirt and therefore keeps our soil bugs happier and more abundant.
Notice I also said they are planting corn on to a field that grew soybeans last year. On our farm, like most crop farms, crop rotations are vital. Rotating the crops each year is better for us and better for the environment surrounding our farm.
Other things across the farms like terracing, tiling, and grass strips are some of the tools modern farms like ours use to protect our environment.
Our farm also has areas of CRP. Also know as the Conservation Reserve Program, this program allows farmers to take eligible fields out of crop production and grow native grasses for wildlife.
Fencing is a less recognized environmental protection on many farms. We use fence to keep the cows out of certain areas - like ponds or areas highly susceptible to erosion- to protect the environment.
We also use fence to create multiple paddocks across all of our grazing farms. This allows us to rotate our cows from pasture to pasture (rotationally graze) which actually uses less land and resource per cow!
You see, it is not that we don't like Earth Day. Like most farmers, we are actually thrilled that people around the world take a day away from their routines to focus on better protecting our environment.
But Earth Day isn't relevant here. We cannot simply set aside one day out of the year to think about our Earth. Here on our farm we have to talk about, think about, and take action each and every day to protect our environment.
This is our livelihood and our legacy, which means we have to be constantly focused on our little piece of the Earth and how we can continue to improve our surroundings, not deteriorate them.
Like my 5 year old learned at school, around here, "Everyday is Earth Day!"
Happy Earth Day!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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