Water quality. Two simple words that, when paired together, can stir the emotions of anyone regardless of whether or not they live near a significant body of water such as Lake Erie.
My family and I have always farmed in the Western Lake Erie Water Basin (WLEB). I have raised my family here and my kids are raising their families here. We have enjoyed living near Lake Erie, which offers so much to do in the summer months — fishing, boating, water skiing and more. I know how much Ohioans and out-of-state visitors look forward to spending family time and recreation time on the lake.
Because the WLEB is home to many farms, it is easy for people to jump to the conclusion that farmers are not doing enough to prevent nutrient run-off. I don’t think they take into consideration that farmers use and enjoy Ohio’s water in the same way they do. Because I want clean water for my family and all Ohioans, and because I am a farmer, I believe that I have a responsibility to do the best I can to farm in an environmentally responsible way. Every farmer I know wants to do that.
We do the best job we can using the fertilizer correctly and working to lessen nutrients leaving the field. I feel strongly that we need to better understand the water quality issue and how agriculture plays a role in maintaining water quality. Because of this belief, four years ago I was one of the first to volunteer my farm for research being conducted by OSU. This edge-of-field testing will take into consideration how the farming season and rainfall impact water runoff. This will provide farmers science-based guidance on which practices will best keep nutrients in the field.
We know, and this knowledge is backed up by a recent USDA study, that voluntary practices we are already doing are working and will continue to work. Improving Ohio’s water quality needs time — we didn’t get into this situation overnight and the research shows that results are happening and will continue to build over time.
To do my part in continuing to build on those results, I have chosen the best management practices that work for my farm. Research tells us that the 4Rs work so I implement those on my farm. I also choose to soil test and understand my runoff risk so that I can manage my nutrient applications accordingly. I know that I am producing great yields while still protecting water quality.
We must continue voluntary work such as this. If we don’t, we may face regulations that are not based in science and will have no affect on the algal blooms.
Together, we will make a difference.