Today is Earth Day and as a proud producer of the food America eats I will be celebrating it tonight with a hearty beef dinner. I like to think of my fellow beef producers and myself as the original green movement (no pun intended, but it does make a pretty good one).
Earlier this week, we were burning pastures and it made me think about how farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists. I was sitting on the highest hill on my ranch watching the fire slowly burn up against the fire line and burn itself out. All I could see from my vantage point was miles and miles of prairie.
Several of my fellow ranchers were also burning with tendrils of smoke here and there and an orangish-blue sunset set it all off. Acres and acres of well-managed, native, tallgrass prairie weaving through the gentle hills. The same native, tall-grass prairie that will scrub the CO2 out of the air. The same Flint Hills grass that stops the precious top-soil from eroding. Cared for by my fellow producers utilizing fire to stop invasive species from taking it over. Maintained by proper grazing methods and a close eye for detail. All of this to preserve it for future generations of ranchers.
I could see the farm-land mixed in intermittently. Most of this farm ground is terraced to reduce erosion. New farming practices like no-till and round-up ready genetically modified soybeans and corn have allowed producers to increase the production of much needed food while at the same time preserving and even building up the top soil. Producers are even using fewer chemicals than they were just a few years ago and that combined with less water running off of the land has led to healthier streams and rivers.
So contrary to what you have heard through the media, read in books or have seen on other blogs and web pages, those of us in agriculture take pride in the soil, water and wildlife around us. We do everything in our power to protect and even improve the world around us. We are tied to our land through several generations and have aspirations of several more generations to continue producing America's food and fiber. That, my friends, is why I plan to enjoy some good, environmentally friendly beef in honor of Earth Day and our environmentally conscientious farmers and ranchers, I invite you to join me.