When I was growing up there was a slogan that went like this, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute.” For me it meant litter control–not throwing trash out the car window. What I didn’t realize in the 70’s was that a movement was starting with a focus on air and water quality. That movement can be traced back to April of 1970 when Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day. In December of the same year congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
We are very familiar with EPA regulations. Since our feedlot is considered a CAFO we have certain rules to follow in order to operate.
Earth Day is more than rules and regulations. It is about people returning to the earth more than we take from her. My husband, Steve, and I have been trying to do that ever since we started farming together nearly 32 years ago.
One of our annual projects is planting trees. We started planting trees in the early 1980’s through a tree planting program through the NRD. Since then we have planted thousands of trees and shrubs. The NRD delivers them to us in bundles of 25 trees that look like sticks.
When Steve and I started planting trees we were developing windbreaks. We would plant two rows of Cedar trees and two rows of Ash trees. We started substituting Honey Locust for the Ash trees in the 90’s. We have also started using Pine and Spruce trees. Once the trees were planted we needed to keep them watered and the weeds mowed. We planted so many trees when the kids were young that I taught them math as they rode along with me in the pickup. We had a big tank on the back of the pickup with water and a large hose. As I would drive between the rows Steve would water the trees. As the kids grew they either ran the hose or drove the pickup.
Our kids also planted a tree of their own in our yard. Each of them received money from their grandparents to get a tree after graduating from 8th grade. It has been fun to watch the speed at which some of the trees have grown.
Celebrating Earth Day is a something we do in agriculture every day. The earth is our partner and we know that without her we can do nothing. I encourage you to find ways you can give more than you take by following one of the newer slogans “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Earth Day has become more to me than keeping our highways clean but that, too, is something that still needs to be done.