As somebody who writes about farming, I find the negative view that many people have of farmers and farming disheartening. Sadly, that view often comes from things that others have written in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere. And, as Earth Day approaches, I have been thinking of ways to counter that. The only thing I came up with is to write about the positive things that farmers are doing for our environment and our health.
I have already done this often on Care2 but, I think it’s something that needs be done on a continuous basis. For example, as I wrote about before, Certified Naturally Grown, is a non-profit group formed by farmers as an option for small scale, direct-market farmers who can’t afford to get certified organic, but who do use USDA organic standards. The difference is that unlike the USDA program, Certified Naturally Grown doesn’t require set fees, only what a farmer can afford. So far, almost 500 farmers from 47 states have enrolled in the Certified Naturally Grown label.
I also wrote about the Wild Farm Alliance formed by another group of farmers that is preserving open space for wildlife and species by promoting healthy, viable agriculture that helps protect and restore wild nature.
These two groups are just a small sample of all of the efforts that farmers are taking to preserve our environment. Farmers are the largest stewards of our land, and work to protect our environment every day of the year, yet most things we read about them don’t mention this at all. Think about it, if they did not protect the land, they couldn’t produce the food and fiber we all need.
Many farmers use Best Management Practices (BMPs) to address water quality and quantity issues using things like conservation tillage, conservation or riparian buffers, and erosion and sediment control. Still others are working to find ways to produce more food on less land so they will have less impact on soil and water resources.
This is not unique; most farmers have a genuine love for the land they work, and not just for the practical need of keeping their soil rich for production. So, if there are those with practices you don’t like, rather than attack all farmers or paint them all with the same brush, write to them, don’t buy their products, make them accountable for what they are putting in the ground and in our bodies. If we stop supporting things that don’t sustain us, or our planet, and there’s no profit in it for them, they will be forced to change the way they do business.
Conversely, do support those whose values, practices, growing methods, and philosophies you support and tell your friends and family to do the same. One of the greatest gifts of shopping at a farmers’ market or directly from a farm is the relationship that we develop with the people who grow our food. Use your consumer power to make change by supporting only sustainable farmers and farming.
Sustainability is the key for both our earth and our farmers. So to celebrate Earth Day try to support local producers and farmers to make sure they can earn a profit and sustain themselves and keep farming. These local farmers live in your community and buying locally produced food from them also helps to feed that local economy. The increase in the number of farmers’ markets and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) has made it easier to support our local farmers.