The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Conservation is Key

Conservation is Key

Climate and Crops

June 28, 2009

There are few occupations that depend more greatly on a healthy earth than farming. Farmers truly understand the responsibility of protecting and enhancing the quality of the land entrusted to them. Their livelihood depends on it.

Every year, the American Soybean Association recognizes the environmental and conservation achievements of U.S. soybean farmers who take care of the environment while still seeing an economic return from their farm. The group does so through the Conservation Legacy Award.

Third-generation, family farmer John Buck was recently recognized as the national Conservation Legacy Award winner due to his strong commitment to conservation on his operation in New Bloomington, Ohio. He has been doing his part to improve his farm’s conservation profile since 1999. John’s parents had laid a strong foundation for conservation prior to him taking over the family farm, and he continues that commitment today.

“Sustaining our land and ensuring a bountiful food supply go hand-in-hand,” Buck says. “If I don’t do my part in taking care of the land to make sure that it will be here for the next generations, then I am not being a good steward of the land.”  

Buck does several things to help improve conservation on his farm. Here are just a few:

•    His farm is 100 percent no-till. Tilling a field prepares it for planting through practices like plowing and fertilizing, but no-till (short for no-tillage) describes a system where soil is not disturbed from harvesting to planting, except for applying nutrients. This reduces carbon dioxide going into the air.

•    He samples the soil regularly and works with the local fertilizer supplier to apply fertilizer very precisely to take better care of the soil and not over apply.

•    To help protect the Lake Erie Watershed, Buck recently installed 11 acres of filter strips, which are strips of grass that can protect water quality by filtering sediment and nutrients before reaching surface water sources. These filter strips serve as a border between fields of crops and land used for other purposes, as well as provide a habitat for wildlife, in some cases.

“Just the feeling that I’m doing something that I feel is the right thing to do is a great joy,” Buck says. “Improved conservation on the farm has additional benefits beyond the environment, including using less fuel and manpower to plant the crop, the reduction of equipment costs for repair and maintenance, and depending on Mother Nature, the reduction in the application of overall crop protection.”

On the whole, Buck says that improved conservation has helped him reduce input costs to the most efficient methods possible. He says that agriculture today is the biggest asset that America has, and that all the efforts we do to make sure it stays that way will be vital to our future.

“I have been able to realize a better level of understanding as to how important conservation is to the growing of our food, fuel and fiber in the United States and the world,” he adds.

Read our Farmer Q&A series interview with John Buck here: