Carpets of bluebonnets color the southwest landscape

Carpets of bluebonnets color the southwest landscape.

Farmers understand Earth Day; they live with it every day

Over the course of the past two weeks I’ve driven through some of the driest areas in the country and some of the wettest, stretching from as far west as O’Donnell, Texas, and as far east as Spartanburg, S.C.

I drove through dust and wind in West Texas and rain and hail in Tennessee and the Carolinas.

I have shivered in the damp and cold and perspired in temperatures that got way closer to three digits than one would expect in mid-April. I’ve seen bluebonnets spread across rangeland like azure carpet and mountainsides spotted with the brilliant white of dogwoods in full bloom, interspersed among trees just beginning to push pale green leaves onto bare limbs.

I’ve witnessed rivers running high and brown from torrential rains and streams that haven’t seen a trickle of water in years. I’ve scaled mountains and peeked down into valleys lush with new grass and painted with buttercups. Contrast that with the red canyons I drove through on my way to Lubbock, Texas, vaguely green with mesquite and prickly pear.

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I watched tractors pulling heavy tillage equipment across West Texas fields, stirring up dust in their wakes; and I’ve seen fields in East Tennessee too wet to plow or washed out by too much rain.

And I marveled at all of it. Weather is majestic, destructive, scary and capricious.

In the Southwest, some still need rain; some need to dry out. In the Southeast, a bit of sunshine and warmth would be welcome. Friends from Wisconsin, driving back from the Southeast, expect to see snow when they get home.

My farmer friends continue to believe it will come out okay. They are either already in the field planting, preparing to plant, watching new crops emerge and grow or checking for bugs, weeds and diseases that threaten to undo what they’ve accomplished so far. It’s a never-ending balancing act.

And it’s a tradition that has endured for as long as men tilled the earth to provide food for clans, families, communities and now the world.  They don’t harness the earth; they work with it, taking what it gives them, and the best of them, most of them, making certain they give enough back to replenish the soil, maintain the water and keep the cycle intact.

It’s Earth Day. Farmers, better than anyone, understand the reciprocity necessary to produce food and fiber and protect the resource.

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