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Water is Essential to Farm

There is no denying that water is essential to survive. We all need it! We need water to drink, cook, bathe, and play. But we also need water to EAT! Water is essential to farming and as we know weather can be unpredictable. From extreme wet periods to weeks with not a single drop.

We were at the National Ag in the Classroom Conference this past week and a particular quote stood out to me- "No one will care about what they have never experienced." The more I thought about this quote the more I realized how true it was. Until you experience yourself, it is hard to feel the weight of what it might mean to others in the midst. My heart is going out to the states in a major drought right now.

We currently have a water leak on the farm. It is a pretty big leak and therefore we had to shut the water off to half of the farm. Water access has been frustrating and inconvenient but not severe. We still have running water available to us across the farm but the challenges this week put in to perspective what other farmers and people around the world might be feeling if they don't have access to water. Our minor situation is so small in comparison and I am still naïve but what I do know is that water is essential to all of us.

One of my professors at Iowa State said that one day there will be a war over water. Earth can only provide us with natural resources for so long. It is important that we are mindful with how and what we use. GREAT farm land is being developed all around us and it takes several hundreds of years to produce one inch of topsoil. Once it is gone we won't see it again in our life time. I am not sure what to do about this because it makes sense to build in habitable places and not the middle of Antarctica but food for thought. Our population continues to increase and we will need food, clothes and shelter.

Agriculture is part of the solution! Today farmers feed more people on less land! This is possible with the improvement of genetics, technology, and research. By planting seeds in the ground we are decreasing erosion from fields. Waterways, cover crops and other conservation practices help decrease runoff and loss of nutrients. Did you know 99% of the cow is used for food or byproducts? Now that is efficient! According to Iowa Farm Bureau, "Over the past 30 years, U.S. pork production has increased by 80 percent, while per-unit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have fallen by 20 percent – just one example of how U.S. farmers are cutting the GHG emissions required to provide each of our meals."

Also according to IFBF "Cows receive a lot of attention for burping methane (a greenhouse gas), but even if all livestock in the U.S. were eliminated and every American followed a vegan diet, researchers with USDA and Virginia Tech say that U.S. GHG emissions would only be reduced by 2.6 percent, and global emissions would only be reduced by 0.36 percent. That seems like a pretty small gain for all that we’d be losing, especially the nutrients we can only get from meat, milk, and eggs (like high-quality/complete protein and vitamin B12)."

Genetics help play a large role in agriculture. A Brahman (heat tolerant)-Angus (known for marbling) Cross is a great breed for southern states. GMOs improve drought, disease and pest tolerance, making it so farmers don't have to spray or irrigate as often! Arctic apples (non-browning) help decrease food waste! Other examples: composting, water collection systems, farm technology (GPS, drones, milking robots), farm diversity, CRP (conservation reserve program), continued education, etc.

There are professionals in the industry continuing to research sustainable practices- agronomists, animal nutritionists, plant breeders, precision ag specialists, and many more!

It is important to be recycling and using biodegradable products as often as we can (but maybe not paper straws...I would rather just not use a straw haha). Did you know there was a such thing as corn packing peanuts? HOW COOL! We can use plants to produce many different products sustainably. Biofuels are another example!

We need all types of farming to feed our growing population. We need small, large, conventional, organic, indoor, outdoor, specialty, and diverse!

I feel like there are many accusations, labels and fear shaming around food/agriculture and the finger is usually pointed at the farmer but as you can see the scope is larger than just one industry. It will take all of us and EXCITING things are happening. The world isn't as depressing as the news portrays. Generally people want to do good!

Sorry for the long soap box! haha. I wasn't really sure where the post was heading... I just started to write.

On our farm water is essential for keeping the cows happy and healthy (water tanks, grazing and hay production) and for irrigating the cut flowers! Hopefully the line will be fixed in the next few weeks. I know it won't be an easy task. The whole line is being replaced on half of the farm but it will be a relief when it is fixed.

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Megan Johnson
Megan Johnson
Aug 03, 2021

Great blog post and very informational! Lots of "food for thought!" 😀

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