Across the Table: Water quality

Farmers of Grandpa’s generation didn’t think much about public opinion and didn’t need to. People mostly still had ties to family farms and understood how things worked. Dad’s generation had it more challenging; adapting to a public less connected but more curious about food and food production wasn’t easy. Nevertheless, they prepared my generation to embrace the public’s interest in the business of producing food.

bill-kelloggInterest in how food production impacts water quality has been pretty intense since 2014. That’s when nearly 500,000 Toledo area residents were told to not drink the water due to an algae bloom caused in part by nutrients that escaped farm fields. That episode put agriculture in a spotlight, which is why I was recently impressed by Bill (pictured left) and Shane Kellogg’s transparency while on their farm in the part of Ohio that feeds rainwater into Lake Erie.

The father and son farmers have gone all in on openness, enough so that they welcomed a group of newspaper, television and radio reporters to their Hardin County operation. I tagged along on the Farm Bureau organized media tour and admired Bill’s candor.

“Sharing some of the things we do on our farm was out of my comfort zone at first,” he told the reporters. As for changing his farming practices to protect water, he added, “We wanted to be proactive and do the right things.”

The Kelloggs aren’t alone. Tens of thousands of Ohio farmers are taking steps to protect the water you drink, fish and swim in. Their efforts are documented in our latest Water Quality Status Report, which came packaged with this month’s issue of Our Ohio. Please take time to look it over.

statelerYou’ll read about Bill and Shane and fellow farmers Duane and Anthony Stateler (left) and Chris Kurt who comprise a network of demonstration farmers who are testing new farming practices and nutrient tracking systems. The goal is to help all farmers across the state step up their environmental game. You’ll see water quality work being done by Farm Bureau members in your local communities. You’ll learn about collaboration among farmers, environmentalists, educators, government, businesses and others who have a shared goal of protecting water while preserving food production.

You, too, own a piece of the action; so far your member dollars are responsible for a $2.3 million investment in these efforts, which is paying off.

Farming in the public eye may have been irrelevant for Grandpa and difficult for Dad, but today it’s the norm. It’s why we invite the media to our farms and distribute water quality updates. The story of farmers meeting a massive challenge is inspiring. Don’t miss it.