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Farm visit is ideal Earth Day activity

Ron Smith 1, Senior Content Director

April 21, 2011

3 Min Read

I celebrated Earth Day a few days early this year – Tuesday, April 19.

Tuesday is the day we always put our recyclables on the curb for a Wednesday morning pickup. We also add some yard waste — limbs raked up following last week’s storm, along with a few crape myrtle clippings and a house plant or two that didn’t survive the winter and an abundance of neglect.

But that’s not how I celebrated Earth Day.

We always recycle, even though we realize that, in the grand scheme of things, piling used newspapers, plastic bottles and milk cartons into a bin and shipping it all off to enjoy a new life as toilet tissue, building materials or landscape compost may do very little to improve the environment.

But we do believe in the value of a lot of people doing little things to accomplish a greater good.

I celebrated Earth Day by taking a trip, visiting a farm about 30 miles south of Dallas.

We watched fields of wheat swaying in a brisk Texas wind. We examined the grain heads and marveled at how well they had filled out, given the severe drought conditions that have bedeviled the Southwest since last fall.

The farmer, an Extension agent and I drove to a corn field where I expected to see off-color, stunted stalks struggling to survive. What I saw instead was a near-perfect stand of foot-tall corn, thriving, at least for the time being, in rich, black soil that was just beginning to crack from dry conditions.

Two rainfall events, each accounting for about a-half-inch of moisture, have kept the crop going and may help to fill out those wheat heads.

The farmer said wheat yield will be off, well below his usual average, because of the drought. The corn has a long way to go to make the first kernel. His new crop, oilseed sunflowers, is up and off to a good start. He’s trying to finish planting cotton in too-dry conditions. And he’s watching forage conditions for his cattle herd, expecting to feed hay, of which he has a good supply.

Across the road from the corn field was a large patch of Texas bluebonnets, the official herald of spring in these parts. Pecan trees displayed the worm-like tendrils that presume a fall harvest.

The weather was warm and windy. No dust blew from the cultivated fields, even as dry as it was.

All that is why this short trip was an ideal way to celebrate Earth Day. No one on the planet is more aware of the value of conservation than a farmer. He sees nature’s abundance and nature’s capriciousness every day. He, better than anyone, knows the price he’ll pay for neglecting his natural resources, the rewards he’ll garner for the practices he employs to conserve and improve them.

Chances are, for most farmers, Earth Day will come and go with little thought or commemoration. They will practice stewardship of soil and water the same as they do every day. They likely will not make a big deal out of this day that has been set aside for folks far less involved in environmental stewardship to think about conservation.

Farmers do more than think about it — they engage in it daily. For a farmer, every day is Earth Day.



About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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