There’s just something about summertime that makes you fully appreciate all nature has to offer. Growing up, I would help my grandpa in his vegetable garden back in Indiana (a garden that could feed our family and the neighbors, none the less!) Working the land with him and enjoying summer veggies like a fresh ear of sweet corn (my favorite) made me feel so close to nature. It’s also one of the reasons why I feel so strongly that we in agriculture need to do the right thing to protect it.
Luckily, in my job, every day I get to see how farmers like Jeff Taylor from Chrisman, Illinois care about the land and want to do the right thing. The land is their livelihood, it’s their passion, it’s a reflection of who they are, and it’s something they want to
preserve for future generations.
Sustainability and caring for their land are synonymous in the farming world. When I spoke with Jeff about sustainability, he explained it this way: “It’s how I make my living, how I feed my family, and for the long term of agriculture it’s very important.”
Keeping Carbon in the Ground
One of the farming practices Jeff adopted to keep his land intact is “no-tilling
”. That means he doesn’t use tillage equipment like plows to break up the soil when planting and caring for crops, and it’s a major step forward in making farm operations more sustainable
Whenever you break up the soil, you release some carbon into the atmosphere. Keeping the soil intact keeps the carbon locked in, so it’s not able to contribute to global warming. Plus, by parking the plow, Jeff is also using less fossil fuel since he’s not running a tractor to pull the plow through the field.
The most recent research
shows that more than 100 million hectares (247 million acres) of no-till farmland helped avoid an estimated 681.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
from 1974 through 2008 across the globe. That’s like saving emissions from 76,685 gallons of gas
. And, the impact will be even more significant in coming years because the prevalence of no-till farming is expected to rise as governments incentivize farmers to use these practices.
Getting More with Less
No-till farming also helps prevent soil erosion and runoff. Erosion is a major challenge worldwide
to keeping ag operations sustainable. One of the primary goals of sustainable farmers is to get the most they can off of the least amount of land. Erosion makes the land less productive which means more land across the globe needs to be converted into farmland to help keep us all fed.
Soil erosion and runoff also can effect water quality in surrounding areas and even areas further downstream. So, Jeff’s no-till operation isn’t just benefiting the water quality in Illinois, it’s also helping with water quality in the Gulf of Mexico!
To me, it’s really important to understand the impacts agriculture has on the environment—especially when you see how far-reaching they can be. And, I think it’s just as important to understand what farmers are doing to protect our natural world.
It gives me comfort to know that farmers like Jeff aren’t just concerned about how their decisions impact their farms. They want to do the right thing for others. Jeff is an advocate for environmental and economic sustainability, and the way he treats his land says a lot about his character.
When I look back on those times I helped my grandpa in his garden I think about what his garden said about him. In my eyes it told a story of a man who cared about the earth, used his plenty to help those in need, and would work endless hours to provide for his family and those he loved. And, I’m happy to see those same values live on in the farmers I work with today.
Brooklynne Dalton is a Purdue graduate (Boiler Up!) with a passion for the food and fiber industry. She's living in rural Illinois working for Dow AgroSciences as a field sales representative. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and step-daughter, going to exercise classes and traveling.