“A Reminiscent Fellow”
This is the third installment in the habitat restoration reporting we have been engaged on at Ridge Farm. This week the pans and bulldozers are rolling off the farm and we have now successfully reshaped the planet in our own little way. Hopefully, this is all to the betterment of wildlife and all the “ecological happenings” on the farm and we have added some ecological capacity back to the system.
Amidst all the activity of building habitat this Summer, Mrs. Jenny (my wife and expert flower farmer) gave me a short essay written by Aldo Leopoldo for my birthday. As a “recovering biologist” that has entered the dark side of the natural resource world, I find it therapeutic to appreciate how I arrived at this moment in time with the appreciation for land and the values these “ecological happenings” provide. While My Father first introduced me to the salt marsh, Aldo Leopold has shaped many of my opinions of land use and resource management. In 1939, Mr. Leopold wrote The Farmer As A Conservationist. It was published in the June edition, volume 45, number 6. As you know, Mr. Leopold‘ s writing is not a barn burning epitaph full of rhetoric with emotional language.
His work barely moves the needle towards today’s sensationalism and the volume required to be heard in modern discourse. While this is clearly disappointing, I am pleased to report, I believe his thoughts and observations in 1939 remain relevant today and serve as sound guidance in making decisions about land use and managing our “ecological happenings”.
At any rate, I think it is fitting to read and contemplate The Farmer As A Conservationist. It provided the perfect background to the work we were doing at Ridge Farm. His paper contemplated the founding of conservation and role our government programs and public policies on natural resources shape the “pepper-and-salt pattern in the warp and woof of the land-use fabric.” His plain speech ultimately suggests the individual farmer must “weave the greater part on which America stands”. This conclusion remains true today. There is no government solution to forcing conservation, land protection or ecological sustainability. It rests in the farmer and in our choices of how we choose to use natural resources. Our ultimate failure or success will rest in individual choice. I truly appreciate Mr Leopoldo’s last paragraph.
“He is a reminiscent fellow, this farmer. Get him wound up and you will hear many a curious tidbit of rural history. He will tell you of the mad decade when they thought economics in the local kindergarten, but the college president couldn’t tell a blue-bird from a blue cohosh. Everybody worried about getting his share; nobody worried about doing his bit. One farm washed down the river, to be dredged out the Mississippi at another farmer’s expense. Tame crops were over-produced, but nobody had room for wild crops. “It’s a wonder this farm came out of it without a concrete creek and Chinese elm on the lawn”. This is his whimsical way of describing the early rumblings for “conservation”.
Plain speech is hardly allowed these days and I am not sure Mr. Leopold is talked about as much in the conservation community, but I enjoyed remembering where many of my opinions on land use originated. The irony in this for me is the government programs did in my case assist me in doing “my bit” for conservation. I believe Mr. Leopold would recognize the conservation community has come a long way from concrete creeks and ornamental elm trees. I appreciative of all the resource partners that are helping make things possible at Ridge Farm.
Looking forward to sharing more as the habitat on Ridge Farm starts to go wild and dry dirt turns green with plant life and a few ducks swim around. Onward!