Writing an article about conservation is normally not very hard for most folks that work for a Soil & Water Conservation District. If you’re employed at a place that promotes an ideology that you embrace, then the passion is always present, and writing things about what you do is relatively easy.
If you fail to understand why anyone would be passionate about saving soil, then I hope that you got to see the PBS documentary this week, titled The Dust Bowl. Although as I’m writing this I’ve only seen some of the previews, it looks to be another excellent attempt by filmmaker Ken Burns to tell a story about our history, while some of the participants are still alive.
If you are too young to remember it, or even to have heard stories about it, then this should be required viewing. If you think the Dust Bowl has nothing to do with your life today, then let me ask you two questions: Do you eat every day? And where does your food come from?
As bad as the Dust Bowl era was — and it was the worst man-made ecological disaster in our history — it was a lesson learned. As a nation, we learned how important and how precious and how vulnerable our soils are. If we abuse them, we just might lose them.
And from this lesson came the founding of the Soil Conservation Service and the birth of conservation districts all across America.
Led by Hugh Hammond Bennett, farmers all across the country were introduced to a new way of thinking about the ways they raised crops and livestock.
In our area of the world it meant things like contour strips for cropping our hillsides, and pasture improvements for our livestock. Better water development for animals and for irrigation all helped to save our soils. But it also helped our food producers to be able to withstand hard times.
Planning for challenging times is still an important part of what conservation districts do. All the planning in the world won’t make droughts go away, but being prepared helps us through. And now we face new challenges.
For the past several years, conservation districts in Ohio have dealt with the challenge of funding their programs. County budgets can no longer afford to support an agency that helps food producers do what they do best. Many districts in eastern Ohio have had to deal with cuts that in many cases have led to reductions in their staff.
Here in Noble County, we were fortunate enough to have received our funding through a tax levy that was passed by the voters for ten years. Unfortunately, last week’s election results to renew our levy, were not in our favor. For the third time in 12 months, our voters said that 2 or 3 dollars a month was too much to pay for our services.
The reality is that food producers in the U.S. are a minority. About 98 percent of our population doesn’t actively produce any of the food that they eat. The scary part is not that they don’t know where their food comes from, but that they don’t seem to care, either.
Writing an article about conservation is normally not very hard …