Protecting Your Gifts

I could easily start this column with a poem; there’s lots of poems about trees. Instead I want to start the lonely image of a single tree in the middle of a field.Lonely_Tree_in_the_Middle_of_a_Field

In the 1930’s, a good portion of the United States became lost in the dust bowl. dustbowl 2Farmers had continuously turned over old sod and cut down every tree in order to grow crops to feed people. Without any resistance from trees or grass to hold the soil, the wind was able to lift the black soil up and into the sky to the point that some farm land was no longer able to produce crops.dust bowl 1 People and animals died as a result of these dust storms and farmers went broke. If you want a tiny sample of a dust storm, look back to this spring when those bean fields that had been land-rolled gave up their soil to the wind and the sky.

The people who pay taxes decided they wanted no more dust bowls. They wanted food to eat and wanted their farmers to find success in their labor. Programs were created to plant trees along the edge of fields to reduce wind to a point that it wouldn’t create dust storms. The dust bowl was well-documented but apparently not memorable. Even now I see tree rows that were paid for by taxpayer dollars torn down while still productive and protective. I hear lots of talk about alternative practices such as cover crop and no-till but rarely see these practices employed. Just look every fall at the black fields everywhere and every winter at the snow mixed with dirt.

Let’s go a little deeper in thought about this topic. It says in the Bible that we are supposed to maintain and grow the gifts we are given. We aren’t just supposed to take and take but also to give back and grow our gifts. I think about being married and how we are supposed to help each other grow in faith. Is it so different from our relationship with the land? God gives no greater earthly gift that a good partner. Would a good man ever treat his wife like something to be used and thrown away? If the land that produces food is a gift from God, does it not follow that this should be cherished and its value be enhanced?

Maybe it comes back to that lone tree in the middle of the field. Maybe that one tree is indication that there is good intention overshadowed by bad practices. I’ve always found that my best work is framed by defined borders and rules. The discipline of these rules create a canvas to perform my best work. The same may be said of a perimeter of trees, clearly defining a field and protecting it from the erosive effect of wind as it creates a canvas for the farmer to create his best work.

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