is the business of growing crops and raising animals. Often called
farming, agriculture can be an important part of a working landscape.
Farming is a lifestyle and a business, but it also requires knowledge
of science and nature. The combination of the social element, the
economic element, and the ecological element make agriculture a good
candidate for a working landscape.
There are some things farmers cannot control and some things they
can. Farmers cannot control the weather, the price they get for
their crops, or how bad the insects will be in a year. They can
control how they farm, which is very important to the health of
a working landscape.
The following is a summary of farming practices and issues that
challenge a farm's role in a working landscape.
Types of Farming
Crops like corn, wheat, cotton, and soybeans are grown to produce
food and products we use everyday.
Animals, like cows and pigs, are raised for food like hamburgers
and bacon. The also supply materials for products we use everyday,
like belts and shoes.
Farmers Have Little Control Over
availability of water can determine the life or death of crops and
livestock. Irrigation (watering crops) is a key issue. Periods of
extreme drought and flooding complicate the issue of irrigation.
Farmers Have a Great Deal of Control Over
Pesticides and Fertilizers
often apply chemicals to their fields to either help add nutrients
to the soil or to destroy unwanted insects, weeds, and animal pests.
The chemicals can do one of two things. They either break down into
harmless products, or they remain toxic. In either case, they find
their way into our underground aquifers or run off directly into
our lakes, rivers, and streams. This means they can end up in our
drinking water, or they may affect unintended organisms that are
not on the farm.
Farmers can minimize their use of chemicals or even grow crops
organically. They can also look for safer alternatives like integrated
pest management, which uses pesticides as little as possible, looks
at ways the environment can help control pests, and modifies the
way a farm is run in order to reduce pests.
erosion is the most severe agricultural problem. When water and
wind have access to bare ground, they rob a landscape of top soil
and nutrients. Dirt in our air impacts air quality. Dirt in our
water can also make it unfit to drink. But conservation tillage
practices (ex., contouring, terracing) can minimize soil erosion.
occurs when all of the vegetation is consumed by the animals feeding
on a landscape. The land becomes susceptible to soil erosion. Controlled
grazing can prevent this. Reintroduction of native animals that
do not overgraze is another option (ex., bison, elk).
are areas where a large number of animals are confined to a small
area. They often threaten the land's ability to maintain itself.
The land may not be able to handle the large number of animals that
rely on it. The health of the land and the health of the animals
are at risk.
Ranchers can make sure their animals have room to roam. They can
rotate grazing animals from field to field.
management deals with this question: after the animals "do
their business," what do we do with it? Manure makes great
fertilizer, but applying too much will result in pollution of our
water supply. It can be placed in confinement ponds, but that only
intensifies the smell. Confinement ponds allow solid waste to settle
to the bottom of the pond and not run off into our sources of drinking
water like rivers and streams.
Biotechnology is the genetic engineering of crops that have desirable
traits like pest and drought resistance. The effects on other crops,
biodiversity, and the ecosystem remain to be seen.
for Working Landscapes
farming can be a component of a working landscape, but if problems
associated with agriculture are not addressed, a working landscape
cannot exist. Fortunately, there are many good practices to prevent
problems and save the land.
Farmers who are aware of the problems associated with growing crops
and raising animals and take action to solve these problems are
rewarded with a special relationship to the land. They are also
rewarded financially. The ultimate reward is a working landscape
for future generations to use and enjoy.
do you think?
How can agriculture best fit within a working landscape?
Confinements and Manure Management
that smell?! Is it the stink of hog manure or the sweet smell of
money? It depends who you ask.
in the Loess Hills
people think of farming, many picture endless flat lands of corn,
beans or wheat waving in the wind. In the Loess Hills of western
Iowa, farmers deal with steep ridges and rolling hills. The soil
is different too.
Best of Agriculture" a photo essay
next time you drive down a highway, take a look around. You'll notice
farming seems to be taking place everywhere. But is a field just
to Market Links
Walk down any grocery aisle of snack chips and the implied "healthier"
options can be overwhelming. There is "low fat"
free and less sodium"
and "reduced fat."
Concern over food quality is spurring growth in the development
of organic products and an increase in the number of retail outlets
selling organic foods.
California Distributor Connects Farmers & Chefs Through Web
Farmer and high-tech guru Brian Gardiner applies his skills to make
the distance shorter from "field to fork."
Profit From Less Acres
While conventional agriculture seems to be expanding acreage to
make ends meet, some savvy marketers are making money growing less
traditional crops on a fraction of the land used by an average farm.
venture finds place in local groceries
A cooperative of Oregon organic growers are joining forces to sell
their bounty to local grocery stores.
market grows a booming business
sales of organic produce and products have, over the last 8 years,
grown at an annual rate of better than 20%.
Non-traditional Crops Take Front Seat in Farm Bill Debate
The House version of the farm bill calls for an increase in the
size of the Conservation Reserve Program to 40 million acres. It
also seeks a 75 percent increase in baseline spending for other
and farmers tackle soil loss
Soil erosion contributes to nutrient runoff and water pollution.
While researchers work to help farmers understand their contribution,
many in the fields are already doing their part.
Clean Water Alliance (spring)
A farmer-driven effort is working to curb farm run-off in Iowa.
Clean Water Alliance (fall)
One combatant in the fight against pollution is a group of Iowa
farmers who have embraced the challenge of curbing nutrient run-off.
scale hog production controversy lingers
Today, as one of the nations most prolific pork producers,
and despite a series of legal challenges, premium standard farms
remains a prime example of the influence that a large, well-financed
corporation can wield in rural America.
Wrestles With Landmark CAFO Bill
In recent years states in a variety of ways have come to grips with
issues provoked by large-scale animal feeding operations.
Issues Trouble Rural America
Grain processors are concerned the Mississippi would become the
major grain transportation route causing the price of shipping to
rise as much as 40%. Farmers are worried the river would return
to its destructive flood- prone ways.
Target Big Pork
In recent days hefty fines have been levied on pork operations found
guilty of violating environmental regulations. Most of the fines
were attributable to the improper handling and disposal of manure.