EDITORIAL: Salt of the earth

Several common themes emerge when you begin visiting with this year’s Soil Conservation Award winners, as we did this week. The first theme is that they are surprised and even embarrassed to receive such recognition. Several said they didn’t even realize the awards existed until they were told they had won one. More than one joked that the selection committee must have been “scraping the bottom of the barrel” to have chosen them. Clearly, those folks don’t do what they do for the sake of personal attention.

A second common theme is that these men and women aren’t committed to soil conservation primarily for the economic benefit it might bring them. True, the government requires land owners and operators to be involved in some cases in order to qualify for federally funded farm programs. But you get the sense that most of these folks would be active in conservation even without the federal requirements. For one thing, it does make sense economically to take care of the land. But beyond that, most care for the land for a more noble reason. Some call it being stewards of God’s gift. Others say it’s a moral obligation they owe future generations.

By in large, the farmers and landowners we’ve talked to in Marion County not only are the caretakers of the earth, they are the salt of the earth. They are environmentalists not because it’s trendy; they are environmentalists because it’s the right thing to do in response to their Creator.

We salute this year’s winners, and we thank them. Because of them, and the many other committed stewards of the soil who quietly go about their good business without recognition, all of us benefit. And if we are wise, we will follow their example of caretaking, whatever our field of expertise. -DR

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