What are you gonna do on Friday? As for myself, I plan to don the green leotards, drink some recycled water from a glass jar, think about someday purchasing a Prius, and have granola for breakfast all the while dancing around a maypole. Well, not really. Be careful what you wish for. I’m just saying. Unless you live on Mars or Missouri, you are probably very aware that Friday is Earth Day. (Say that three times real fast.)
Actually I’m gonna leave the leotards on the shelf at Wal-Mart, drink some good old CountryFina (well water), and simply do what ranchers and farmers in the good old U.S. of A., and the world for that matter, have been doing since the days of Abel and Cain. I’m gonna do my job.
You see, long before Big Al flew around the world in his Lear jet, telling us, uh, the uh, dangers of flying around the world in our Lear jets, farmers and ranchers learned something that’s stuck with our way of life like molasses. You take care of the land and it will take care of you.
Perhaps this is best illustrated by taking a trip in the Way back machine of our minds, and think, for just a minute, what the bottom line really is in agriculture. Is it not sustenance? Is it not to sustain? Aw, and that leads us to that great word that’s thrown around nowadays like the smallest kid in the moon bounce: sustainability.
Sustainability is the key in long term thinking. Sustainability is the key in farming or ranching. Sustainability is something we in ag have been practicing for a long, long time. After all, if the original intent in farming or ranching is to simply provide food for one’s family, how can you not know that you must put back what you take in order to have enough next season? A farmer or rancher who doesn’t understand sustainability is like an astronaut who doesn’t understand the law of gravity or the importance of oxygen. It’s simply engrained in our very souls of who we are and why we do what we do.
If you don’t believe me, consider a book that I was given recently. Great Ranches of the West by Jim Keen is a fascinating look into thirty of the American West’s greatest ranches. A quick thumb through will reveal that the majority, if not all of these great outfits, are at least 100 years and still going. Pictures of three generations are not uncommon throughout its pages. Stories of boat trips across the ocean and wagon trips across the plains are how many of the ranches owners began. Ninety-eight percent of today’s farms and ranches are family owned. Many of them by the same family many generations removed.
A particular story about the Chain Ranch in Oklahoma caught my attention.
Ralph and Darla (Chain) have never forgotten the dustbowl lessons of how fragile this land is. Before Ralph took over ranch operations from his father, wildlife had been scarce for the previous sixty years, killed off by homesteaders and environmental practices. Now whitetail deer, birds, wild pigs, and other creatures native to this Oklahoma region flourish where the Chains have taken the time to create specific habitats for them on the ranch. “My goal is to put this country back together the way God made it,” Ralph says.
You see, whether it’s the Chain Ranch or the Tailgate Ranch or the 10,000 acre farm or the backyard gardener, when you work with the land, you soon learn a necessary lesson that you must take care of that which takes care of you. The teacher is God and the pupils are not only those who make a living from the land, but all of us, who are sustained by her bounty.
During the winter, we purposely overpopulate our alfalfa/grass hay meadow with about 100 cows. As you can see they do a good job fertilizing the place.
This is just one of the ways we here at Tailgate Ranch celebrated Earth Day back in February. We harrowed the manure deposits and now, as you can see, unlike Kermit, we don't find it that hard to be green.