I was there at the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970. I was a freshman at LSU in Baton Rouge, and the Student Government Association, the Student Union and other organizations planned – and pulled off – a rather surprising number of events, speakers, entertainment, workshops and how-to demonstrations.
What I remember the most was getting sunburned. I spent the entire day on LSU’s parade ground, a large grassy area in the very center of the university. At one time, it was where the ROTC cadets marched in formation. It had become the place for large student gatherings, like the intramural flag football league, Frisbee championships, and events like Earth Day. I forgot to wear sunscreen.
The day and what it’s about has changed over the years – environmental awareness has gone rather mainstream. The youthful enthusiasm and fervor of 1970 has given way to the policies and programs and bureaucracies of environmental protection.
But it is still Earth Day, and especially so for farmers, farmers who figuratively and literally know and work and care for the earth.
Collectively, the world’s farmers operate on about one thirty-second (1/32) of the planet’s surface. That’s what is utilized to feed and sustain six billion people – becoming nine billion by 2050, assuming current population trends hold.
With all of the volume and diversity of food that’s being produced, no one is growing new dirt.
Stewardship matters. For farmers, it goes beyond personal feelings, or the kinds of things I experienced in 1970.
For farmers, caring for the earth is a business necessity. They know what happens if the soil plays out, or if erosion goes unchecked. They’re out of business.
So for this Earth Day, in 2012, we’d like to recognize the people who are the stewards of the land – the people who grow more with less, the people who care for the soil, the people who the rest of us depend upon for our food.
The people whom we call farmers.