Conservation And Tithing: Doing What Is Right

Northstar Notes

Donating 10% of your land, or 10% of your profits, for conservation.

Published on: August 21, 2013

A huge annual sporting event takes place northwest of Anoka, not far from my home, called Game Fair.

At Game Fair, hosted by Armstrong Kennels—a hunter, a fisherman, a dog lover, a conservationist—can find just about anything that supports and encourages the sport. You could say it's sort of like Farmfest, as that has everything for farmers.

The event also hosts educational sessions and panels. A few years ago, it featured a panel of gubernatorial candidates that included our current Gov. Mark Dayton. This past weekend, it featured a panel that discussed, "Farming and Wildlife: Can they Co-Exist? The truth behind current agricultural practices and environmental protection."

Panel members were Rob Sip, Minnesota Department of Agriculture's environmental policy specialist; Bill Penning, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources's conservation easement section manager; Warren Formo, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center executive director; Bob Welsh, Department of Natural Resources habitat program manager; Myron Tyler, Natural Resources Conservation Service assistant state conservationist; and Bill Gordon, a Worthington soybean farmer. The panel was moderated by Minnesota outdoorsman Ron Schara.

About 40 people attended. A larger group would have been better as there was some healthy discussion about conservation practices, drainage and the loss of CRP acres.

I'll write more about this session at another time. Yet, the one thing that stuck with me was Bill Gordon's comments about how, on his fourth generation family farm, they have practiced conservation for decades, "because it is the right thing to do."

His family farms around 2,500 acres and 10% of their land is in some form of conservation practice—buffers, three-stage settlement ponds, CRP, Reinvest in Minnesota.

"Every farmer does this," he told the group. "Every farmer had some kind of conservation. They do it because it's the right thing to do and it's profitable for us to farm the right ground."

Gordon said he "challenges everyone in Minnesota to give up 10% of their income" to help care for the state's natural resources.

Ten percent. The tithe. I recall hearing that during the church year when stewardship time rolls around.

That's a lot for some people, to faithfully give that amount to the church.

Setting aside 10% of your land is a lot, too.

In this instance, it's conservation.

Gordon and his family know their land and have seen how it responds to drought and down pours. After making decisions on conservation practices to implement, they invested in the changes and enjoy the benefits of seeing wildlife, cleaner water and soil staying in place.

For Gordon, and lots of other farmers, it truly was, and continues to be, the right thing to do.