For the week of April 18, 2016

Farmers and ranchers cherish their land

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

Farmers and ranchers strive to protect our planet each and every day. On April 22, nearly 2 million agricultural producers will celebrate the 45th observance of Earth Day with the rest of us who live in this country.

Like each day’s sunrise and sunset, some take this land for granted. Conservation of our planet can be a struggle because some regard the land as a commodity that belongs to them. Others see this earth as a community to which they belong.

Farmers and ranchers belong to this second category. They love, care and respect the land. Ag producers adhere to an ethic that enlarges the boundaries of our community to include soils, waters, plants, trees and animals – collectively – the land.

The fondest wish of farmers and ranchers is to pass their land on to their children. They work years to leave a legacy of good land stewardship.

There is no other way for land to survive the impact of technology and the demands put on it by man. Let us never forget that while our land yields fruits, vegetables and grains, it also yields a cultural harvest – one we as inhabitants all share and must nurture.

Today, less than two percent of our population makes its living directly from the land. Middlemen, countless machines and sophisticated technology separate those who do not work the land from this valuable resource. Many have no vital relation to the land. To others the land is viewed as the space between cities on which crops and grass grow or cattle graze.

As we celebrate Earth Day this April 22, let’s remember land use is not solely an economic question. Let’s remember it in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.

The future of our land and its viability hinges on investments of time, forethought, skill and faith, rather than only investments of capital. We have continually modernized our farm equipment, plant foods, pesticides and other production inputs and we are proud of the abundance of the crops we produce.

We can never throw away these tools that have provided so much for so many. On this Earth Day, let’s renew our commitment to harmony with our life-giving land. Let’s once again reaffirm our commitment to always hold sacred the land.

This Earth Day, renew your pledge to the earth as a community to which you belong. Nurture, love and respect this land that includes soil, water, plants, trees and animals.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.