I’m visiting Lincoln, Neb., for the first time ever next week to attend the 2013 Water for Food Global Conference, “Too Hot, Too Wet, Too Dry: Building Resilient Agroecosystems,” on May 5-8 at the Cornhusker Marriott.
I’m actually really excited to be attending. Maybe “too” excited? I have my agenda of speakers scheduled out like I would for the musicians’ sets at a music festival. I even rented a professional camera. And, above all, I’m already packed, which is an impressive time frame for me when it comes to work trips and my previous fire-drill approach.
My interest in this conference is two-fold. First, I just started a new position in which my primary focuses are sustainability and improving agriculture. That makes water a fairly significant topic for my role. So, what do I know about water in terms of sustainability? Two weeks ago, not a lot. Today, a little more than that. In one more week, I’m hoping to know a lot more, and I have every reason to believe that to hold true. But, diving into a sea of information around the topic at hand is making me thirst for more. Puns intended.
Also, there are some innovative organizations and people at this event. The conference is hosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, Monsanto has been one of the principal sponsors since the conference’s inception. We support many water initiatives (http://www.monsanto.com/improvingagriculture/Pages/monsanto-and-water.aspx), and we are firm believers in the use of technology and sustainable farming practices. Did I mention that there is a fantastic lineup of speakers from around the globe with expertise in water?
The second reason I’m really interested in attending is that I’m alarmed about climate change, the lack of water when we need it and the overabundance when we don’t. I’ve experienced the results of all these instances on a personal level. I’m from a small, rural community in the Midwest. Last year, we were affected by the drought, and two weeks ago, I was following Facebook closely, reading about the rising water levels. My grandparents, uncles and many friends are farmers with fields lining the contours of the Mississippi River. My dad sells farm machinery to those farmers. My mom even runs a business along the bottom road. So, when the river rises, everyone is on alert. Everyone with equipment or land at stake is lending a hand to doze up levees, sandbag and move assets out of an area we call “the bottoms.” Because when a levee breaks, it’s a heartbreak-type of feeling for many in the community.
It might make a bit more sense why I am so excited now. I want to know the reality of the situation, and I also know what it is that I can do as a person to help for the sake of my hometown community, and dare I say, as a contributor to the world. And, I also want to know what advances we are making from agriculture’s perspective. Furthermore, I work for an agricultural company. We have the Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg, Neb., which I will also tour next week. We invest in drought-tolerant seeds and water management practices, among other things. The topic of water is a big deal to us, as it should be to you. After all, how many times do you use it each day? Ever think about how things would be different if you had a limited use?
Check back in with Beyond the Rows next week. I will be sending a few reports with some of my key takeaways. Talk to you soon!
Note: For more information on the 2013 Water for Food Conference, visit Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute on Facebook or follow the #water2013 hashtag on Twitter.
Photograph: Cracked Earth by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.