Clements: Author and Environmental Defense Fund staffer Miriam Horn spent three years putting together the book Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland. She spoke at an American Farm Bureau Federation conference this week. The book, which was turned into a documentary, focuses on how farmers and ranchers work to produce food on a large scale, while at the same time they work to protect and restore the soil, and protect air and water quality. Horn says she wrote the book to push back against the myth that the only people who care about conservation and good stewardship are environmentalists.
Horn: I knew from my own past that farmers and ranchers were doing some of the most important stewardship in America, that they really knew and loved the land as much as anyone, they often had generations of heritage there and children that they wanted to pass that heritage on to. And, so I really wanted to reveal what seemed to me as a hidden story of heroes.
Clements: Horn learned of many examples of how farmers practice conservation and stewardship from a Kansas farmer she featured in the book.
Horn: He’s given up tillage, he uses much more intense rotations and includes alfalfa and soy in that rotation to fix nitrogen, he leaves all of his residues in the fields to protect the field from wind and rain erosion and he uses cover crops a lot. He’s had really great success in rebuilding organic matter in his soil and making much more efficient use of the pretty scant rains and building his fertility and reducing soil loss.
Clements: She says farmers and ranchers are relentless when it comes to stewardship and conservation.
Horn: They’re wrestling with really complicated issues and they don’t give up. They keep the level of focus and the depth of integrity that they bring to wrestling with really tough challenges, economic challenges, market challenges, the weather challenges, the challenges in their soil.
Clements: The documentary will premiere on the Discovery Channel August 31. Micheal Clements, Washington.
Communications Assistant, AFBF