Wealth. Envy. Nausea. The term “green” is so versatile that’s it’s become the most over-used crayon in the box, so to speak. Any use of the word requires context. So in honor of National Agriculture Week (March 14-20) and our favorite Gaelic holiday (even if we’re not actually Irish), I thought it would be helpful to take a look at what it means to be “green” on the farm.

Iowa farmers devote more of their acres to grassy buffer strips (which reduce runoff, protecting our lakes and streams) than anyone else in the country, over 560,000!

Iowa farmers have voluntarily restored more than 80,000 acres of cropland to wetlands via the Wetland Reserve Program. That ranks 8th in the nation. Wetlands protect cities against storm surges and coastal areas from erosion. They also provide a habitat for wildlife.

Iowa farmers devote millions of acres to no-till and conservation tillage. By leaving stalks and other crop residue on top of the ground, farmers reduce water runoff and soil erosion.

Terraces, grassed waterways, contour farming and contour strip-cropping are just a few of the other practices farmers use to keep the soil in their fields and out of our streams.

Many livestock farmers plant vegetative buffers (trees and shrubs) around their barns to cut down on odor, aid existing soil and water protection efforts and improve the appearances of their farms. Farmers can receive technical advice to make sure they’re getting the most out of their buffers by participating in the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers’ Green Farmstead Partner program.

Not only do Iowa’s farmers protect our air, water and soil; they conserve the energy they use and produce renewable energy for the rest of us. Iowa ranks first in ethanol production and second in wind production, with over 3,000 megawatts of wind producing capacity. Iowa has enough wind power for nearly 900,000 homes, or roughly ¾ of the homes in Iowa. Now that’s green!

So DON’T pinch a farmer this week; they’re truly green, even when they’re not wearing any.

Written by Zach Bader / photos by Joe Murphy
Zach is a Communications Specialist for Iowa Farm Bureau.