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Agriculture is Tied to Everything

Because I am part-owner of a farm, I receive a farm magazine every month; in a recent one, an article stood out for me. “Agriculture is tied to everything” was the title. Whoa, that seems a bit broad. So I read further. Actually, agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics. It is the world’s largest industry employing more than one billion people and generates over $1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of food annually. Pasture and cropland occupy around 50% of the Earth’s habitable land and provides habitat and food for a multitude of species.

It's easy to see how living in the Midwest, we are tied to agriculture. Living in an urban area, we enjoy the landscapes as much as those living in the country do--a place to reconnect with nature, and if we interact in a positive way, it inspires us to conserve them and prevent the land from being developed and urbanized.

In fact, the US Dept. of Ag created seven voluntary land conservation programs for this purpose. One is the Conservation Reserve Program which offers yearly payment to farmers for not cultivating land with high environmental value.

Likewise, those practicing sustainable agriculture boost soil fertility through cover cropping because it sequesters carbon. As plants photosynthesize, they remove CO2 from the atmosphere and add oxygen. The richer the plant cover, the more it uses carbon dioxide to support it. Richer and better quality pastures mean more organic material entering the soil.

Ag has a role in the water cycle, too. Once water enters the soil, it passes through different soil layers getting rid of pollutants until it reaches groundwater reservoirs perfectly clean and safe for us to drink. A perennial plant such as alfalfa is a very important buffer on the farm, preventing flooding, reducing water pollution from runoff, and preventing erosion while providing us with nutritious food at the same time.

That brings me back to connecting with cities. Urban agriculture such as community gardens on a small scale can help to localize food production, reduce transportation requirements and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And once again, it connects people with nature.

There are many ways agriculture impacts our lives every day. Some might argue it is the most important industry in the US, so it is only right to recognize how it ties to everything.