I was a college freshman at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. An entire array of events was planned on the large tract of land in front of the Student Union, known as the Parade Ground (and still known as that) for when ROTC was mandatory for freshmen boys. (Mandatory ROTC had ended the year before I started college.)
Encouraged by our professors, including my chemistry professor who cancelled classes for the day, my friends and I spent the entire day on the Parade Ground, listening to speeches, watching demonstrations, visiting information booths, enjoying the music, eating the food.
My most powerful memories are that I had fun and I got sunburned.
Twenty years later, I took my family to the Earth Day celebration in Forest Park in St. Louis. It was totally unlike the original day: corporate sponsors, major events spread over a weekend, bands, acres of booths, a giant puppet parade, even a belly dancer. Earth Day had gone professional and rather upscale from what it was in 1970. We didn’t have posters at LSU that first Earth Day, but we did in 1990 (and I still have one).
It’s hard to imagine how such a relatively small sliver of land – about one thirty-second of the planet’s surface – sustains more than six billion people, and with more people coming every day. But it does.
And the fact that it does is because of farmers. Production farmers. Organic farmers. Conventional farmers. Specialty farmers. Big and small farmers. North and South American, Indian, African, European and Asian farmers.
I know farmers in North America – and I know farmers who grow GM crops and farmers who grow organic crops. They have a lot in common, but one thing they all share is love for the land.
And it makes sense, of course. The land is what sustains them, their family and their business. (And it is a business, for all farmers.) They worry about erosion of topsoil. They employ a variety of agronomic practices to reduce or possibly eliminate erosion. They know how important that thin layer is to their farm and to the rest of us.
This Earth Day, we thank all farmers for their care and stewardship of the land.
And don’t forget the sunscreen.
Improveag.com: Improve Agriculture, Improve the Earth
Improveag.com: A Perspective on Earth Day
Monsanto.com: It’s Always Earth Day on This Iowa Farm
Ag – A Colorful Adventure: Thoughts & Actions on Earth Day 2011.
Top photograph: Farmer on Tractor by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. Earth Day poster photograph: author’s collection.