At Our Mercy

An excerpt from Kate Yegerlehner’s article “Saving Civilization with Grassland Farming” in the February issue of the Stockman Grass Farmer magazine. Citing the environmental wastelands left behind by agricultural practices in ancient China, North Africa and Mesopotamia, she writes:

“In essence, our civilization is at the mercy of our agricultural practices.  Many have failed before us, and we can choose to learn from those mistakes or ignore them and reap what we sow.

Very little of the land in our nation carries a negligible risk for erosion.  Many of our major rivers run brown, not clear as they once did, and that is because of the soil they are carrying along.


Whether we are grass farmers or cultivators of the land, we must pay attention to this finite and somewhat fragile resource of soil.  In an effort to grow a few more bushels of corn or soybeans, neighbors around us have plowed up grass watersheds and drainage areas, sprayed and killed and tilled everything right up to the ditches, and converted sloping pastures to annual cultivated crops.  I can’t fathom how this seems like a responsible long-range plan.  It makes me wonder, in what ways am I blinded to my own short-sighted choices?


It has been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  We can’t keep doing the same destructive things to our land that have always been done and expect different results.  That’s the definition of insanity.

As farmers and ranchers we have an incredible opportunity to feed people and steward a portion of this beautiful Earth. I want to do my part to make it healthier, more fertile, and more productive when my time is up than it was when I started.  How about you?

Our nation and our countrymen are counting on us, whether they (or we) know it or not.”


19 comments on “At Our Mercy

  1. smfarm says:

    I read “Stockman Grass Farmer” as well, excellent publication. From my own experience, when I was growing up in Iowa the landscape was dotted with small farms and you would see trees around the buildings and in the pastures, along with fence lines and waterways and of course animals because they were diverse farms then. When I go back and visit now it always astonishes me how the landscape has changed. Small farms have been gobbled up by big ag, buildings, fence lines, waterways plowed under for the sake of more tillable land, and rarely any animals grazing in pastures. It’s sad.


    • Bill says:

      It really is sad. It’s sad to know that those small farms could once provide a good life to a large family, but now that way of life is vanishing.


  2. bobraxton says:

    For just about thirty-one years we have maintained a HUGE compost pile in the back corner of our suburban corner lot – deciduous leaves that have fallen from our trees three decades, three decades of kitchen peels and such. The earthworms are employed full time. I am amazed when I open up the pile (we collect in a large pickle bucket until it is about full) to see the amount of moisture / water it contains and maintains. Is it almost chest high. Also this is next to our brush pile, which is well higher than ones head. All the growth that goes on the pile is from the shrubs and trees and other garden plants on this rather small piece of God’s earth.


  3. Joanna says:

    It is the International Year of the Soil

    Hopefully this year, people really will focus more on the soil that produces such rich abundance and aim to ensure it continues to do so

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Let’s hope so. Even among industrial farmers sensible practices like cover cropping and reduced tillage are catching on (because they increase yields). But at the same time, we have subsidized crop insurance that incents farming marginal land. There’s lots of work yet to be done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joanna says:

        People often suggest crop insurance and I wondered what the effects of that were. The only winners in that game are the insurers and so never been a fan. It makes me wonder what the answer is to address the problems of a catastrophic year for those farmers who are not working on the marginal lands.

        Liked by 1 person

    • bobraxton says:

      to the victor belong the soils

      Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    in 1977 I read “Losing Ground,” a seminal work on agricultural erosion. Though I see that many farmers have amended their practices, I still see the soil in the air in a strong wind. Dust bowl, dust bowl, do they ever learn.


  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Oh yes!! Can’t agree with Kate more!
    How dumb is it to put in drainage tile to destroy what has always been insect predator habitat? How much could you possibly be saving, when you now need to replace insect control that was previously free?
    Where is the logic in removing the buffer zones that help control erosion and keep Agricultural Waste out of the Watershed?
    Where have all the experienced Farmers gone? What has happened to the accumulated Knowledge of our Ancestors? Agri-Business only cares about the short-term – this year’s bottom line. Short-sighted ignorance and sheer stupidity.


    • Bill says:

      Exactly. It’s very short sighted. But the problem is also exacerbated by bad policy. For example in the U.S. we have federally subsidized crop insurance that incents farming marginal erosion-prone land. Why not? The farmer gets paid whether the crop comes in or washes away. Nevermind that it will take thousands of years to replace the topsoil.


      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Lord, how I hate being frustrated by gross stupidity… ): Let’s hope lessons are learned before it’s too late for Humankind.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Eumaeus says:

    There are good Hoosiers doing good things, Kate Yegerlehner is an example. We just need more, more, more! Move to Indiana people!

    Liked by 1 person

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