In a recent Cover Crop Strategies podcast interview, my guest, Richard Ehrhardt, Senior Extension Specialist for Small Ruminants with Michigan State University, brought up an excellent point that I thought was worthy of sharing. He said, “People like seeing livestock grazing on cover crops. It’s aesthetically pleasing.”
He’s absolutely right. How many times have you seen a field of cattle or sheep grazing peacefully, and had a sigh of contentment or a smile on your face? Your average passerby may not know what plant or crop livestock are grazing on, but that question does open the door to further conversation and educational opportunities.
Ehrhardt added that furthermore, the simple sight of livestock grazing on cover crops serves as a public education benefit, treating the general public to a small dose of agricultural literacy. In today’s era where the average American is three generations removed from any exposure to agriculture, it’s more critical than ever for ag literacy and awareness — even in small doses — to reach consumers.
Talking about cover crops with consumers also accomplishes the task of painting American farmers as noble stewards of the land, feeding hungry people while making sure that the soil, air and water are improved for future generations.
Because so many consumers don’t understand modern agricultural practices, using cover crops as a springboard into a conversation about regenerative agriculture is just plain smart.
I encourage you to take every opportunity to educate the general public on the benefits of cover crops and why you use them in your operation, whether you’re talking to friends at church, a fellow parent at your kid’s basketball game, or while taking public transportation.
As more people hear about cover crops and their benefits, they will be more inclined to allow growers the license to farm the way they want, because they know that farmers are indeed doing the right thing.