Recently, I began to ask myself, “How did I get into conservation?”
The trail of thoughts that followed led me back to my childhood. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a marine biologist and study orca whales, thank you Free Willy and Sea World.
As a teenager, I was still exploring that career possibility, but something kept pulling me here, where I grew up.
As I thought more about my choices, I decided I can trace my love for the environment back to three things: the Soil and Water Conservation District, my grandfather, and my father.
The first time I ever heard the word “watershed” was in elementary school at a Soil and Water Conservation District program.
I can’t remember much about the program, but I do remember the EnviroScape, the watershed model.
Watching the polluted water run from the miniature houses to the miniature lake was the “aha” moment where I realized people impact nature.
The seed was planted. I remember talking to my grandpa, who ran a small farm, afterward.
He told me about his relationship with the Soil and Water Conservation District, and we talked about some of his farming practices. Mind you, I was in elementary school.
I remember him taking the time and answering my questions. He was planting different kinds of seeds than he was used to.
One of the lessons I learned from watching my grandpa’s life was the importance of being mindful, that everything we do has a consequence: good or bad, for us or for someone else.
When I sum up conservation, that is the definition — being mindful of what we do with and to our natural resources.
This love for nature and mindfulness was handed down to me from my father but in a different form.
He is not a farmer, he is a water garden landscaper. That may be a hard connection to see, from farming to landscaping, but my love for aquatic ecosystems comes straight from my dad.
He had a common sense way of approaching landscape pond management — he just tried to imitate nature.
He wasn’t into quick fixes to get the water to clear, or algae to go away. His goal was the long-term, biological balance of the little man-made ecosystem.
He was also planting seeds for the future.
Making an impact
When it came time to choose a field of study as a young adult, I realized that I didn’t have to move to the coast to do what I loved. I could stay right here and learn how to make an impact.
When you look at the conditions of our rivers, lakes, oceans as a whole, fixing the problem can seem impossible.
When each person starts to make mindful decisions, such as excluding cattle from a stream or planting cover crops, those decisions have a cumulative effect and can make huge impacts on water quality.
Planting the seed
If you have any children in your life, take the time to plant those seeds. Show them the filter strips around your fields, then take them fishing and tell them how that filter system benefits the fish you catch.
You never know which seed will spark something in that child.
All of those little seeds planted in me as a kid, helped me grow into a person who wants to help others find a love for nature and agriculture and help them make mindful decisions.
So I may not be living near the ocean studying marine mammals, but I am here in Ohio helping others protect our streams, drinking water, aquatic habitats, and (in the long run) the ocean hundreds of miles away.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!