Earth Day should focus on farm families

Folks interested in celebrating Earth Day should have ridden around with me the last few weeks. Recent trips to East and Central Texas and the High Plains provided spectacular views of wildflowers. This is my seventh Texas spring and I’ve never seen the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush bloom so profusely. These and other wildflowers, which I can’t name, turn roadsides and highway medians into blankets of blue, red, orange, yellow and pale pink, all against an emerald backdrop of lush grasses.

In rural Texas, along the blue highways I often drive, wheat fields stretch beyond view, green waves of grain swaying in Texas’ sometimes gentle breezes. Thousands of stocker cattle speck much of the green pastureland. Spots of silver or blue indicate stock tanks and farm ponds, filled with water this spring instead of dust as they were a year ago.

Folks interested in the message of Earth Day also would do well to talk to the folks I’ve visited lately, farmers with cover crops protecting fragile soil from sometimes savage spring windstorms.

They talk about their diminishing water supplies and the efforts they are making to conserve as much as possible. They discuss how technology has allowed them to decrease pesticide use significantly over the past decade and they point with pride to the improvements they’ve made in resource stewardship.

I spent part of a day observing a ground-breaking for a new ethanol plant in the High Plains. Inclement (tornado warnings) weather forced festivities inside and piles of corn made a good substitute for soil for the ceremonial shovels. Renewable fuels are playing increasingly important roles in saving the planet. Farmers have a big stake in the process.

Unfortunately, farm families get too little credit for what they do for the environment and too much blame for things they aren’t guilty of. We’ll hear a lot of praise for companies that are reducing pollutants, manufacturers that produce “earth friendly” products, items made from renewable resources and recycled plastics, paper and other objects from our throw-away society. And we applaud their efforts.

But the real environmentalists are the families providing the necessities we take for granted—food for our tables, fabric for our closets. If Hallmark makes Earth Day cards, every farmer in America ought to get one.

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