First Farm Day

Our first Farm Day was a huge success!  We partnered with John Paul and Heather Dineen to host a group of 26 Middle and High School students who participate daily in the Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Institute’s Summer Program in Dallas, TX.  The Dineens farm wheat, corn, milo, pork and beef in Waxahachie, which is about an hour south of downtown Dallas, and have a passion equal to ours for bridging the gap between urbanites and agriculture.  They were a perfect fit for our vision!  

 

First stop:  the corn field.  The school bus pulled up to the corn field, and students unloaded into a warm day and a welcoming smile from John Paul who took the next several minutes to explain many of his farming practices.  We heard about the technology involved in modern farming, the cost of seed, the need for pest management and the current market price for corn.  As John Paul explained the intriguing way farmers use GPS and technology, I overheard a High School boy say “I just found my new career.”  Students asked great questions like, “How do you know when the corn is ready to harvest?”, “Did you plant this by hand?” and “How long did it take you to plant this field?”

 

After a great introduction to farming, students were released to explore the corn field.  While some chose to stay on the edge of the field, many braved the bugs and scratchy leaves to discover the ears, silks and husks for themselves.  

 

Next stop:  the kitchen.  The Dineens flung their doors wide open and welcomed us into their Yellow Farmhouse.  Using the milo grown in their fields, Heather demonstrated how grain is ground into meal and used for cooking.  The students divided into groups and sat around tables with recipes, ingredients and utensils ready to prepare fresh field to table dishes. 

 

“Try one new thing” was the challenge given as fresh, healthy snacks were passed around during a break.  Cucumbers, blue berries, strawberries, cantaloupe, grape tomatoes, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds were among the offerings.  Mixed reviews came back from the ones who accepted the challenge, but a light-hearted, adventurous atmosphere made trying new food fun and positive.  

 

Using Heather’s innovative baking mixes, leaders walked students through the process of making corn bread, milo bread, pinto beans, green salad and delicious brownies.  Tables buzzed as the ingredients were chopped, measured, stirred and poured.  And what better use of waiting time than getting some fresh air?  The students filed out to see the cows that came up to the fence and, of course, squeeze in a little game of catch. 

 

Students returned to find their water bottles refilled and plates served with warm breads and fresh salad awaiting them.  Heather explained the healthy benefit of eating whole grains and fresh produce on a regular basis.  

 

When people see first-hand where their food is grown, their attitude about food and nutrition begins to shift from skeptical to appreciative.  Seeds are planted that develop into new ideas about long term health.  

 

The majority of the students who attended this Farm Day live in neighborhoods where many of the residents struggle with nutrition-related health problems like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Limited access to fresh foods is a leading cause to many of these chronic issues.  We hope that by exposing these students to the idea that strong health is accessible by making a few simple lifestyle changes, the trajectory of their families and their community will turn toward more stability and hope.  

It was an honor to have our unique experience highlighted in the Dallas Morning News.  You can read the article here:  Dallas Morning News.

How Do I Get my Kids to Eat More Vegetables? Do I Need to Pay for Organic Food Only? And Other FAQs from the "Christian Parenting" Magazine.

I am often asked questions like how do I get my kids to eat more vegetables? and do I need to pay for Organic Food Only? I recently had the privilege of writing for an online magazine called Christian Parenting to answer these questions and other FAQs. The editor, Kelly Matthews, conducted an interview and split the content into a few different topics.  You can read the first one highlighting Farm Camp here:

Kelly asked me how I get my kids to eat more vegetables.  She made my tips look so good!

The next question Kelly asked me was one that I discuss with fellow consumers very often:  "Do I have to buy organics to be healthy?"  Read the article below to learn why I am so confident in my answer which is "No way!"  

Spring Break 2017

No beach trips or skiing expeditions for us.  Nope, we headed to our farmhouse in rural southeast Arkansas!  The Mississippi River Delta might not be known for its tropical beach or mountain views, but it was a terrific setting for our unique week together on the farm.  We had the privilege of hosting Mercy Street at Farm Camp for Spring Break 2017!  And what a privilege it was......

Over 30 high school students and leaders from West Dallas joined us for an engaging time of learning about a complete healthy lifestyle through the lens of modern agriculture.  It was an honor to hear from experts in a broad range of fields.

 Marvin Walker

Marvin Walker

Wellness:

Marvin Walker grew up in Southern California and moved to Dallas, TX with his lovely wife two years ago. Marvin played D1 football at Weber State University and is currently attending Dallas Theological Seminary.  He is actively engaged in the physical, emotional and spiritual development of young adults and has a heart for helping youth identify and embrace their purpose, believing that "Feeding your body with the proper fuel will transform you into a precious jewel!" The kids loved learning about healthy living from Marvin and were inspired to make longterm changes in their lives.

 Rick Fields

Rick Fields

Machinery:

Rick Fields is the Science and Curriculum Coordinator for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development program. Rick is a graduate of Alabama A&M University, where he earned a master's degree in Plant and Soil Science.  His engaging lesson on hydraulic/pneumatic systems uniquely and beautifully connected our areas of agriculture and health as he taught us that our heart displays a hydraulic system while our lungs model a pneumatic system of functioning.   

 David Glover

David Glover

Aviation:

David Glover of Precision Air is an aerial applicator with over 20,000 hours of flight experience.   David and his team hosted us at their airport and taught us about ag aviation.  Among many interesting aspects of the industry, we learned about the federal regulations under which these professionals work to provide an invaluable service to crop farmers.  Our time at Precision Air ended with an impressive air show and personal peak inside the cockpit.  

 Dr. Karen Ballard with Leigh Ann Bullington in the background

Dr. Karen Ballard with Leigh Ann Bullington in the background

Science:

Dr. Karen Ballard, Leigh Ann Bullington, and Keith Cleek from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Educators taught our students about soybean science.  We learned about the history and uses of soy and the importance of soy for human nutrition.  Did you know that the nitrogen added to the soil through the root system of this unique legume saved American agriculture during the Dust Bowl?!  Our special guests even gave us the pleasure of taste testing a number of soy food product!

Music:

Charles Graham is a renowned gospel singer who grew up working the fields with his family in the Mississippi River Delta.  After going away to college then traveling the world, he returned to the area and purchased the "big house" that he had only dreamed of seeing inside as a small boy.  He now uses his beautifully renovated home to welcome guests from around the world to spread the message of overcoming barriers and healing wounds in order to promote community.  What a privilege for us to gather and soak in this respite!

Outdoor Fun and Delicious Food!

Well, it wouldn't be Farm Camp without outdoor fun and delicious food.  There was plenty of both!  

We can't think of a better place to have spent Spring Break 2017!  Our time together brought us greater understanding of so many areas of wellness throughout our world, and we're all better for it.  See for yourself in this highlight video:

 

 

  

Fighting Childhood Obesity in Dallas: An Interview with Joy In Our Town

What a delightful conversation with Cheri Duckworth!  Cheri is the lovely host of a TV show (Joy In Our Town) that highlights the ways people are addressing public issues in the Dallas/Forth Worth area.  Rachel Logan, our Director of Media and Urban Strategies, joined me to tell our story of Farm Camp.  

Watch the video and learn about how we are combating childhood obesity in Dallas and beyond by taking underserved kids to our farmhouse to teach them where their food is grown and how to have a healthy lifestyle.

The Most Sustainable Rice

Thanks to scientific developments and innovative practices Jim Whitaker's rice is some of the most sustainable rice in the country.  

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He partners with many others to document and prove that his rice uses less water, reduces methane gas emissions and releases cleaner water back into natural habitats.  As a result, he will be one of the first recipients of carbon credits in the field of agriculture!  

Watch as he explains the specific practices that benefit us all.

Let's Talk about the Good: Using Social Media to Spread Awareness

Difficult, sad and tragic stories come through our news outlets every day.  If that’s the only place you receive information, you may be tempted to believe there’s nothing good happening in the world.  But let me assure you, there is.  Let’s talk about the good that’s unfolding in the world of social media and CCTF.

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The "Good" of Social Media

Since we live in the age of information and globalization, problems in our neighborhoods and around the world no longer escape our awareness.  We can learn about the underserved among us who have gone unnoticed for years.  With the help of social media, people now have the ability to magnify the voices of the hurting like never before.  And the best part—action is being taken by a broader audience than any other time in history!

 orphans in Kenya 

orphans in Kenya 

Near and Far

Groups form to give shoes to orphans in South America, provide jobs for ladies in India, and insure clean drinking water for communities throughout Africa.  Local organizations are forming to combat issues in their own backyard like human trafficking, homelessness and food insecurities.  We are doing it!  

 fresh produce served at Farm Camp

fresh produce served at Farm Camp

Mobilizing 

While we will never solve all the world's problems, the generations living today are chipping away at the needs of their neighbors, whether nearby and across the globe.  Courageous people are speaking out for others and pooling resources to meet needs that have been unknown and unmet for years.  

 learning from a farmer

learning from a farmer

The "Good" of Modern Farming

Connecting City To Farm began with a desire to promote healthy food choices for all budgets by highlighting the nutrition and environmental sustainability of non-organic agriculture.  Throughout the last 30 years, concerns have come about regarding the safety and sustainability of familiar practices.  As a result, scientists have partnered with agriculture professionals to implement improvements that are significantly safer for our consumption and the environment.  The system is working. 

Creative Ways to Do "Good"

In only a few short months of being on this journey, we have seen good happening all around.   Some friends are developing organizations that will protect the environment through the lens of youth sports.  Other friends are creating programs that will train underserved children to value healthy lifestyles.  Some colleagues are mentoring those plagued with homelessness, teaching them how to make the next good decision.  Other colleagues are creating a space for refugee women to learn sewing skills and how to sell their products to provide food for their children.  And one new friend is on a mission to spread the good news about all of it!  Emily Thomas founded The Honest Consumer to discover and highlight all the “good” she sees happening around her.  

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Join the Party!

Fear sells, so the headlines are always going to be full of terror and tragedy.  But take a minute to look beyond the breaking news reports.  Dig around on social media.  Find a cause to investigate and support.  Develop the passion that’s itching to come out by working hard for something outside your own bubble.  Volunteer.  Give.  Broadcast.  Participate in the good.  You may be surprised what you will *receive* in the process!

 

Farm Camp with Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas - July 2015

We wrapped up our very first Farm Camp, and it was such a huge success!

We took 12 kids and 2 leaders from South Dallas.  We taught them about nutrition and physical activity.  They took turns preparing, serving and cleaning up heathy meals for each other. 

Plenty of unstructured play time was allowed for them to play frisbee golf, soccer, kickball, and even plan and dig an elaborate water flow system from the irrigation water in the cotton field beside the farm house! 

Jim and other farmers came to give us tours of their rice, corn, soybean and cotton fields.  Kids clearly heard the gospel of Jesus which will give them eternal healthy life with Him!  

Most of them said they would eat more vegetables, cut down on sodas and be more active when they returned home.  Those sound like great seeds that were planted in their minds and hearts!

Out of the mouth of babes - quotes from our Farm Camp Kids:

"What are those?"  (pointing to blueberries)

"Is ALL this food for us?"

"Being out here...it just feels free."

"The showers...really?  Is it hot water??"

"What is corn on the cob?"

"What do you mean by 'play in the dirt'?"

"Does this tractor have a honk?"

"Every bite is delightful."

"That was my first s'more and it was great."

 

The First Farm Camp

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What is Farm Camp?  It is the action piece of Connecting City to Farm.  Following our mission to promote healthy food choices for all budgets, we are beginning a new program in our organization, and there are only seven days until our very first Farm Camp!

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Inception of an Idea

In May of this year, we joined many concerned Dallas leaders at the “Tipping the Scales for Children” event, hosted by The Cooper Institute and SMU's Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility.  After learning more about the overwhelming problem of childhood obesity (which affects 50% of children in Dallas County), we knew we had to do our part to make an impact in the lives of these children! 

What Is It?

Farm Camp is a three night learning adventure for kids living in underserved neighborhoods in Dallas.  We will travel to my family’s original farm house in Arkansas where these kids will be launched into a healthy lifestyle.  While our time will be full of agriculture-related activities, such as riding tractors, running free in cotton fields and meeting local farmers, the curriculum we’ve prepared for our young guests will focus on a complete healthy lifestyle.  

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Curriculum of Complete Health

During mealtimes at Farm Camp, short lessons will be taught on the long-term benefits of good nutrition, physical activity, healthy relationships, moral character, unique purpose and sustaining faith.  The age-range will vary with each camp, with the youngest group being 8-10 year olds and the oldest group being high school kids.

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Small Changes Bring Big Results

Our hope is to create an opportunity for children to see where their food is grown, what farmers do to raise crops, and how small changes in their food choices can make a big difference for generations to come.  

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Pilot Program

We will host our very first (pilot) program July 18-21 with a small group of kids and leaders from the South Dallas community.  Several generous donations from families and small businesses will support gifts, meals and activities, such as souvenir water bottles, t-shirts, caps,  smoothie bowls for breakfast, tuna wraps for lunch, grilled chicken for dinner, water balloon fights, a glow night and tractor rides.

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Planting Seeds to Grow More Beauty

Look for upcoming posts and pictures about how this exciting opportunity is unfolding as we plant seeds in the lives of these precious children.  Collaboration is welcome, so comment below with your ideas.  We wait expectantly to see how our joint efforts can make significant differences in the lives of many growing youths.  

 

The Butcher Block

We have a unique piece of furniture in the middle of our kitchen that we lovingly refer to as “the butcher block”.  My amazing husband surprised me with it when we moved into our house fifteen years ago. 

 my kids displaying their baking skills

my kids displaying their baking skills

It’s the center of activity in our home.  

 friends celebrating 

friends celebrating 

Grand Central

My friends sit nearby it on a stool and visit while I chop, stir and toss lunch.  We leave notes for each other on it.  Some of our best conversations are had leaning against it. 

 my son showing his cast

my son showing his cast

When our kids were young, they climbed on an adjusting stool called the Learning Tower to be able to reach it. 

 my daughter standing on the Learning Tower

my daughter standing on the Learning Tower

Appetizers are served on it when guests come for dinner. 

Birthday candles are blown out on it.  

 celebrating my nephew's birthday

celebrating my nephew's birthday

Science experiments are conducted on it.  

 discovering the science of an egg and corn syrup

discovering the science of an egg and corn syrup

So, so, so many interactions happen around the butcher block.

 the buffet

the buffet

Available 

And the thing every member of my family knows about this focal point is that whatever is on the butcher block is available to be eaten.  If there’s a colander of fresh blueberries sitting there, pop a few in your mouth.  If there are sliced bell peppers, grab a handful as you walk by.  If there’s a cinnamon roll from Bubba’s Chicken, fork off a bite and enjoy.  If there’s something you want to save for later, don’t leave it on the butcher block because it will get eaten! 

 kids sharing treats

kids sharing treats

The Rhythm of Our Home

Every home has a rhythm, and the butcher block has been the platform for our family to establish a rhythm of eating healthy food.  Something my kids often hear me say is “Eat what’s on the butcher block before you eat anything else.”  Translation:  I’ve put things on the butcher block you may not otherwise have chosen.  Eat the healthy food that’s there first, then you can have the chips and crackers you would have reached for.  It’s fun to hear them divide and negotiate who will eat what so they can move on to other foods.  The fruit always goes first.

 bedtime snacks

bedtime snacks

Eat Real Food

So, what’s on the butcher block?  It could be any number of things from my refrigerator.  Sometimes it’s red, orange or yellow bell peppers and nuts.  There are often cherry tomatoes, bananas, apples, or cucumbers.  Celery, carrots, grapes, berries or avocados can also make an appearance.  All types of plant-based nutrition find their way to our kitchen's butcher block.  

 

 kid-friendly red knives from Pampered Chef, cinnamon carrots, kiwi, apple 

kid-friendly red knives from Pampered Chef, cinnamon carrots, kiwi, apple 

Non-Organic

When grocery shopping, I always choose non-organic produce.  Growing up with farmers and continuing to visit with them about their current farming methods that are safer than ever, gives this consumer confidence!  I'm no longer confused or afraid of buying non-organic produce.

 yum

yum

Well-Balanced

Just because my kids eat a variety of produce doesn't mean they would choose it every time.  Our bodies have a predisposition to crave sugary foods, so it’s hard work to stay away from them.  And we certainly don’t always.  We try to keep a balance in our home of routinely eating a variety of food around our table together, and that includes enjoying treats together.  By encouraging them to develop a broad palate, we hope our kids will mature into adults who enjoy the value of a healthy lifestyle.  

What's Your Rhythm? 

When my husband brought this fun piece home, we had no idea our butcher block would provide the creative avenue for our family to learn to eat food we wouldn’t naturally choose.  You might even say that this piece of furniture is teaching us to make healthier food choices.  Hopefully some of the experiences will stay with them as they begin making their own nutritional decisions.  At least for now, they are ordering lots of veggies on their Subway sandwiches.  That's a good start!  What’s your rhythm?  How do you train yourself and your family to eat real food?  

 

The Right Thing To Do

If you've watched Sam Whitaker's other videos, you've heard him mention "The right thing to do".  Whitaker Farms places the highest value on making decisions that are the safest and most sustainable for consumers and the environment. 

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Watch and listen as Sam talks about their current nutrient management program and the benefits it brings to natural habitat around the world.  

CCTF's Mission pursuit of Ethical Agriculture

This is the third and final post in a series developing our mission statement:  Promoting healthy food choices for all budgets by highlighting the nutritional value and sustainability of non-organic agriculture.  We pursue ethics in agriculture by making food available to everyone.

A Home for All

We know that with privilege comes responsibility.  It is an enormous privilege for us to enjoy this beautiful planet and all the living things that call it home.  Even with the confusion and controversy surrounding environmental issues, we know one thing for sure:  we have a responsibility to preserve the earth and it’s resources for the next generation. 

 new growth

new growth

Preparing for the Future

Connecting City to Farm sees agriculture professionals proactively preparing to receive the 9.5 billion people who will live here by 2050, and we want to spread the word to others who can follow in their courageous footsteps.  We all have a contribution, however small it may be, to enrich the opportunities for future generations.  As Sam Whitaker says, "It's the right thing to do."

Who Can Meet the Challenge?

If Certified Organic farmers were called upon to provide food for the world’s entire population, we would loose a huge percentage of current forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural wildlife habitats and suffer under astronomical food costs.  A significantly larger portion of land is required to grow and harvest Certified Organic crops because more of the yield is lost due to insect damage and low levels of nutrients in the soil from weed competition.  

 flooding a rice field                                                                                                                                                                                  photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

flooding a rice field                                                                                                                                                                                  photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

More for Less

Non-organic crops are more sustainable for the environment than Certified Organic crops because it takes fewer natural resources like land and water to produce the same amount of yield.  Under strict regulations and accountability, non-organic farmers are allowed to use pesticides that protect their crops from weeds and insects.  

 

 a carefully measured application being loaded into an ag plane

a carefully measured application being loaded into an ag plane

Follow the Prescription

“Are these pesticides safe?” you may ask.  Absolutely.  They are safe.  In the same way that patients follow the carefully researched, tested and specifically prescribed dosages on their medications, farmers follow FDA regulations regarding pesticide applications.  If they don’t, they will face serious legal consequences that jeopardize their businesses.

 a bountiful rice harvest

a bountiful rice harvest

Increased Yield

By responsibly applying herbicide, non-organic farmers can control the weeds that compete with their crops for valuable nutrients found in the soil.  Reasonable amounts of insecticides can be used, only when necessary, to decrease costly damage from insects allowing the majority of yield to be preserved for consumption.

 family on the farm

family on the farm

Family Farms Take On the Challenge 

As the Agriculture Professionals from Whitaker Farms, Miles Farms and most other family farming operations will assure you, farmers are the ones who are most concerned about preserving and protecting our environment.  They are hopeful about strategically meeting the challenges ahead, and they are daily taking on the responsibility to leave the earth ready for the next generation to enjoy.  

The Next Generation of Farmers

 my dad holding me on our farm

my dad holding me on our farm

Over the last 30 years, the average age of farmers has steadily risen to 58 years old.  With most farmers entering the retirement stage, we are excited to introduce you to a new generation farmer.  

 

 Layne and Matt Miles with a professor who taught them both

Layne and Matt Miles with a professor who taught them both

Layne Miles recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Science and is already bringing his up-to-date understanding of fertilizers, water usage and soil development back to Miles Farms.  

 

Watch as Layne tells how he and his wife, Ryane, are implementing innovative ideas and practices that make the future of farming very bright for those of us who eat!  

 

A Project with a Purpose

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In the Beginning  

When this journey began, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going.  I knew I wanted to bring awareness to what agriculture professionals are doing for our growing population and the earth, but I didn’t know where it would lead.   Now I'm convinced this project calls for a purpose.  There is so much good that can come to families from telling these stories.

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Bridging the Gap

There is an obvious connection between urban life and farm life.  I see how each side views the other with both intrigue and misunderstanding.  Having grown up in a culture that I’ve chosen to remain engaged in and having lived my adult life in the other one, I wanted to bridge the gap between the two worlds that I love.  

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The Two Percent

I have loads of respect for the way conventional farmers take risks and develop new ways of growing food for the world.  It is certainly not a calling for everyone, but we all receive the benefits of those two percent of Americans who take on the challenge and thrive in their giftedness so we can continue to have plates full of healthy food.  

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At Our Fingertips

Urban life is full of opportunities for creativity and collaboration.  Many resources that work together to develop technical, medical and financial advancements are at the fingertips of those living in metropolitan areas.  The world moves forward at lightning speed because of the efforts urbanites make to improve our everyday lives.  

The Mission

As I've been sharing stories and experiences with you, this mission has become clear:

 

Announcement!

Our mission will focus on three main areas:  family health issues, world hunger and environmental sustainability.  I will develop these areas in the next few posts.  To do the most good, Connecting City to Farm has decided to pursue 501c3 (non-profit) status. This will create opportunities to expand our message and our audience. 

We wait expectantly to see what's ahead!

Carbon Credits: Agricultural Currency

I’ve got great news for the world!  Have you heard of carbon credits?  A carbon credit is a cash incentive that an organization can receive for reducing its annual Green House Gas emissions.  Did you know that the State of California will issue carbon credits to any organization in the US that gives evidence of lowering its Green House Gas emissions? 

 

 Tractors planting rice                                                                                                                                                                  Photo Credit:  Morgan Baugh

Tractors planting rice                                                                                                                                                                 Photo Credit:  Morgan Baugh

A New Category 

Maybe that’s not news to you, but did you know that, originally, California did not include agriculture as a category that could receive carbon credits?  This hurdle didn’t stop one group of forward-thinking Arkansas farm families from proving that the efforts they are making on their land should be recognized by California and many other groups around the country.  

 

 The Whitaker family

The Whitaker family

Promoting Current Processes

Mark Isbell wrote in a recent article about ways that rice farmers in the mid-south region of the United States are developing practices to decrease their carbon footprint.  Nature’s Stewards is a group of families that are quantifying their carbon-reducing methods in the areas of water reduction, decreased fuel usage and intermittent flooding in rice fields for the purpose of receiving carbon credits from California.  The Whitakers, Isbells and Sullivans are all successful farming families throughout the state of Arkansas.  They have formed a group to validate the extra effort that many farmers around the country are making in order to preserve the environment while feeding the world’s growing population.  

 

 My dad and nephew in front of a well that supplies the water to surrounding rice fields

My dad and nephew in front of a well that supplies the water to surrounding rice fields

The Way We've Always Done It

For hundreds of years, rice farmers around the world have understood the only way to grow rice is in a “continuous flood” environment.  Whether using contour levees or leveling their land to a precise grade, farmers have maintained 3 - 5 inches of water through the plant’s growing season and then drained the water just before harvesting.

 

 Planting rice in a  zero grade rice field                                                                                                                                         Photo Credit:  Morgan Baugh

Planting rice in a zero grade rice field                                                                                                                                       Photo Credit:  Morgan Baugh

Unavoidable Sources

Motivated scientists have discovered many specific sources of Green House Gases.  Some originate from unavoidable, nature cycles based on the earth’s design, while others are derived from humans.  Because methane is released when soil that is full of organic material is flooded, rice fields have, historically, released a large portion of the carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

 

 Kids playing in a rice field that is being flooded

Kids playing in a rice field that is being flooded

Do We Have to Do It the Way We've Always Done It?

Seeing the need to do their part to sustain the environment while feeding the world, Nature’s Stewards are perfecting a new method called alternate wetting and drying (AWD).  Instead of maintaining the same water level throughout the growing season, these farmers are halting their irrigation mid-season which allows the soil to dry for a brief period of time.  Water is soon re-applied in order to preserve the crop.  

 

 Water seeping across a rice field

Water seeping across a rice field

Surprise Benefit

The Sullivan family, one of the families involved in Nature’s Stewards, has been implementing AWD for several years for the purpose of water conservation.  They have seen a 30% decrease in overall water consumption.  While this is great news for the environment, that’s not even the best part of it.  By interrupting the continuous flood in mid growing season, the Green House Gas emissions are reduced by up to 1 ton per acre!

 Jim Whitaker reading a water gage that documents how many gallons are used

Jim Whitaker reading a water gage that documents how many gallons are used

Documentation

Proving this enormous emissions reduction has given Nature’s Stewards credibility in the carbon market.  During the 2016 growing season, they are keeping copious records of the water levels, tractor hours operated, and the amount of pesticides used on their lands.  The pioneering families in Nature’s Stewards have been able to significantly reduce the carbon emissions in each of these areas.  

 

 The next generation                                                                                                                                                                        

The next generation                                                                                                                                                                        

More to Come

While rice is the first crop to officially enter the carbon market, these innovative farmers hope that other agriculture professionals will be encouraged to develop and document creative processes which they are implementing so we can pass-on a thriving environment to our children and grandchildren.  We would all love to look back in a few years and see that this was just the first of many steps the field of agriculture took into the carbon market.  Nature's Stewards are inviting all farmers to ask the question, "How can I do my part?" even if it has never been done before.  If more families follow their lead, we will soon have more great news for the world!

Farm Life Terms: Zero Grade Rice Farming

 my boys in a zero grade rice field

my boys in a zero grade rice field

Zero Grade Rice Farming is the modern process of land and water conservation used to grow rice in fields that, no longer have levees throughout, but are precision leveled to give the farmer more efficient control of the water levels required for rice to develop.  Watch this short video clip and get to know Jim Whitaker from Whitaker Farms as he tells us why they use Zero Grade Rice Farming.