I can remember being pretty little–four, five maybe. Digging my fingers into the dirt in my mother’s garden, my sisters pudgy hands playing right next to mine, her face (and likely mine as well) covered in streaks of mud. We “helped”, you know. Helped with the planting, helped with the weeding, with the harvest.

In those days, the farm was about 40 acres of horses, steers, cotton, and alfalfa with a little garden patch. As multi-generational agriculturists, my family was somewhat offended by the idea of Earth Day. In our world, where the land and the animals were a sacred trust, every day was earth day.

People who live in cities think they know more about how to protect the world than farmers and I will admit that the two or three corporate farms in America are not really doing their part. But the real farmers and ranchers, the men and women I grew up with, protect the earth from you every day.

Did you know that agriculture is truly the green buffer between the city and the wild? I mean, bless you, if you are a city-dweller, for trying to do more–for recycling, reducing your carbon footprint, buying locally, etc. But look out there and tell me that if the city ended at the edge of wilderness, and not in agricultural land (as most cities do), that you would be able to better protect the wilderness from yourselves?

Instead of having to worry about it, you have a buffer zone cared for by thousands of people who love the land in a way you can never imagine. You can argue if you haven’t been there, but I can tell you that the farmer and rancher loves the land like a family member. Don’t talk Monsanto to me–talk about the folks whose children have dug their hands into the black soil and eaten the produce from that same soil. Talk about the people who get up with the chickens every morning to make sure you have food on your table. Talk about the new farmers who are leaving the city for the truly better life in the country, many with absolutely no idea that the endeavor is as heartbreakingly difficult as it is heartily worthwhile.

Talk to me about the G.B. Olivers who, long before any study proved it to be a good practice, methodically rotated his cattle from pasture to pasture for the good of the grass. Talk to me about the Willie Koenigs (and other multi-generational farmers) making material changes to reduce water usage in their irrigation and packing procedures. Talk to me about the Tom Spaldings, creating alternatives to pesticides by breeding good insects–all without government influence or interference.

(Yes, you’re right–the government has stepped in to make some improvements in these areas. But don’t forget that it was the government who originally gave us things like pesticides–and who convinced the farmers that they were safe!)

So have a very happy Earth Day! Re-examine your priorities in light of what you can do in your life, be it country or city, to protect the earth. Have a happy Earth Day, but never forget that for about 2% of the population of this country (the two per cent that keeps you clothed and fed), every day is earth day.