Article

Every Day Is Earth Day When You Honor the Harvest

April 22, 2019

I have seen first-hand that every day is Earth Day for farmers. They work hard to responsibly raise and grow food that nourishes us in a way that respects the environment, too.

In my travels to farms from coast to coast, I have met many farmers who take their role seriously as stewards of the land. They believe they are “borrowing” it from future generations. Through stewardship of the land, animal care and continuous progress to protect the environment, they ensure the land will be available to nourish future generations.

To honor Earth Day is to honor the harvest. This means a number of things are considered and practiced, on the farm and at home:

  1. Efficient use of natural resources like water and land that are used to grow the foods that nourish humans and animals;
  2. Following the best on-farm practices and animal care, including proper management of manure;
  3. When possible, regenerative agriculture practices are used to help enhance the ecosystem;
  4. Additional innovations like methane digesters to capture carbon so it does not contribute to greenhouse gases (GHGs), as well as natural fertilizers, crop rotations and no till practices to improve the soil’s carbon sink capacity;
  5. Buying, preparing and eating the right amounts of food to avoid food waste or excessive consumption. When food is wasted, the natural resources that went into creating it are wasted and if that food goes to landfills it generates GHGs.

Let’s dig into this a little more. Food in its highest purpose is meant to nourish people, and everyone deserves access to nutritious foods. Did you know that enough food is produced globally to nourish 10 billion people, and yet food insecurity impacts people in every region, including approximately 1 in 8 Americans? Dairy foods can be part of the solution to food insecurity—they are nutrient-rich, readily available, culturally diverse and in many cases affordable.

When we waste food, we are wasting natural resources. Dairy cows have a unique, four-chambered stomach, so they can unlock nutrition from the high-fiber parts of plants people can’t eat/digest. While people drink orange juice, cows can eat the citrus pulp and peel, and while people eat almonds, cows can eat the almond hulls. In fact, 80 percent of what dairy cows eat cannot be eaten/digested by people.

The outcome of cows eating their healthy diets is nutrient-rich cow manure, which has a unique composition and can help naturally replenish nutrients in the soil, such as nitrogen. This helps cuts down on the need for synthetic, fossil-fuel-based fertilizers. This replenished soil can then be used to grow more nutrient-rich food. So, honoring the harvest supports this nutrient cycle that keeps turning symbiotically.

Honoring the harvest comes down to working together, from farm to table, to use food with good purpose, so it’s never wasted. Through following this practice, the bounty that farmers and nature provide can help not only nourish people, but also animals and the health of the environment. And that is the meaning of Earth Day, every day.