The first day of the 19th annual No-till on the Plains Winter Conference is over.
It couldn’t have felt any less like winter. The sun shone brightly, the afternoon high hit 72 degrees and the winds that howled on Monday were but a gentle breeze. All-in-all, it was not the kind of day that you would expect to find several hundred farmers staying indoors.
Before those farmers headed out to breakout sessions dedicated to “Unlocking the Potential on Your Farm” (this year’s no-till conference theme), they were treated to an opening address from Utah professor Fred Provenza whose titled presentation was “Unlocking the Potential of Your Mind – Creating Our Way into the Future.”
Provenza emphasized the constant changing that is nature’s way, reminding us that nothing lasts – that all companies, species, societies eventually decay with human civilizations eventually crumbling under the weight of their own efforts to control their environment.
He pointed out that plant and animal species have, through all of existence, have lifetimes of a few million years and that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct.
What makes us, he questioned, think that humans are destined to be any different than previous species? Rather, he said, we have opportunities to live our lives in an “evolutionary spirit” and work with nature rather than trying to control nature.
We can, for example, turn weeds into resources by managing grazing in a way that utilizes them for animal feed. We can utilize no-till farming practices, along with cover crops, companion crops and other efforts designed to mirror the diversity of nature.
We can turn lawns into gardens and not burn up the 800 millions of gasoline we use annually to mow our lawns – and along the way, we can avoid the pollution from the 17 million gallons of gasoline that we annually spill on the ground filling up our lawnmowers.
He talked about his personal battle with a cancer diagnosis 15 years ago, about his beating the disease while a friend did not.
In the end, he said, he is convinced that the creative force of the universe is love and that all humans experience life on Earth as a pathway to learning to love one another.
It was not exactly what I expected of a No-till on the Plains opening speech, but it was thought provoking. I’m hoping to get a chance in the next couple of days to talk to some other people who listened to it and get their thoughts.