Farmers and ranchers live, work and raise their families on the land. In case you had any doubt about their dedication to sustainability, such personal connections as those are compelling reasons for them to be good environmental stewards.

As they continue to reinvest a great deal of their profits to ensure that their land is productive and healthy for many years to come, we’re seeing some very interesting and innovative practices. Those methods are true examples of how farmers and ranchers take their environmental responsibilities seriously, and put them into real-life practice. 

Carla Wardin, a dairy farmer in Michigan, notices a common saying on social media every Earth Day – that farmers were the first environmentalists. She shares that every day is Earth Day for people in her profession: “Those who till the soil have always been stewards of the land. It's not once a year we think about our responsibility; it's a symbiotic relationship. We care for the land and water, and the Earth gives us the crops, food, and lifestyle we love.”

In honor of Earth Day, we reached out to a few other farmers and ranchers to find out what they do day-to-day that is environmentally friendly. Their pride of, and dedication to, sustainability shines through as they describe the practices that make their farms Earth-oriented. They get into specifics about how they not only support, but practice environmental stewardship. These individuals are just a few examples of putting words into action; making the environment – the land, air and water that belongs to all of us – healthier and sustainable for all generations.

Darrell Glaser, a farmer from Texas, and his wife Shannon set out to establish a sustainable ranching system from the beginning many years ago. He shares his take on food, land and animal stewardship:

“We integrated cattle and turkey production together on our ranch. We use the litter produced in our turkey houses as our primary fertilizer source for the grass pastures we use for our cattle. This process has increased the organic matter in our soil, which has improved the water holding capacity of the soil. Over 20 years of production we have seen our soil structure and quality consistently improve.  It is rewarding to look back and see that the system we put in place has allowed us to run a productive and environmentally friendly ranching system.”

Jay Hill, a vegetable, beef and nut producer in New Mexico, keeps his soil healthy and shares that, “It's important to maintain the natural resources that we have, and responsibly manage the land we farm. In order to do so Hill Farms believes in crop rotation. By bettering the quality of our soil we are bettering our environment.”

Farmers use fertilizers to grow high-yielding crops and to take care of the soil, to prevent stripping the land of its natural resources. Oftentimes, manmade fertilizers or manure applications are used to increase nitrogen fertility in the soil. Chris Chinn and her husband are fifth generation Missouri hog, cattle, hay, and row crop farmers. Chris shares how they practice sustainability, saying that, “We recycle the manure from our hog barns to use as fertilizer. We test the manure and the soil for nutrient value before we inject the manure into the soil for fertilizer. We do this to ensure we don’t over or under fertilize the soil.”

Farmers across the U.S. have endless stories like this, and truly are (and were) the first environmentalists. Are you a farmer who has an Earth Day story to tell? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Happy Earth Day!