Hard to believe it’s been four months already since I began writing the Farm and Ranch Life column. Dr. Val Farmer retired after 28 years of authoring this weekly missive. 
 
Dr. Val sent me an email in early July indicating he and Darlene were on their way to Mongolia to conduct missionary work for the LDS Church. 
 
Val asked me to say hello to readers on his behalf and to extend thanks to well-wishers. He promised periodic reports.
 
In my first column I mentioned how positive attachments, such as those many readers developed with Dr. Val, are resources we can draw upon when needed during critical moments of our lives.
 
I also mentioned I had just spent three important weeks caring for my 2-month-old granddaughter in Utah while her mother resumed her work as a physician and her father pursued his genetics research. 
 
As I write this, I am back in Utah for two weeks caring for my granddaughter, who is now 7 months old.
 
My granddaughter can now sit, stand, drink from her sippy cup, and she does her best to sing along while I play the guitar and sing little ditties. 
 
She exceeded the pronouncement that my Fargo, N.D., friend, John, made when he found out this past November that I was becoming a grandfather. 
 
His wife, Susan, had announced “Did you know Mike will become a grandfather soon?”
 
“The poor man,” John said. “You know babies are just alimentary canals with openings at each end. You shovel food in one end and clean up the mess at the other end.”
 
“Oh John,” Susan rejoined exasperatedly, “You were a baby once, too.”
 
“Yeah, but I got over it fast,” John replied.
 
Despite his good-natured, tongue-in-cheek manner, John, as well as Susan and I, know establishing trusting relationships with babies is essential to their good adjustment later in life. 
 
John approaches child rearing from an academic perspective. As a college professor, he looks at children as potential students. Infancy is a necessary stage to get to adulthood. 
 
John, Susan and I agree babies are worth every investment we make in their wellbeing.
 
Babies interact with their caregivers by reciprocating with pleasant baby sounds when happy, crying or behaviors, such as arching their backs when they are fed up with something; they don’t respond at all when their caregivers can’t be depended upon.
 
My granddaughter understands a lot. When her parents are gone for the day and I happen to mention “Mommy” or “Daddy,” she squirms, groans or sometimes cries because they are absent. She understands at least 200 words. 
 
Grandpa wouldn’t be overly proud and biased, would he!
What do good relationship attachments have to do with farm and ranch life?
 
Our attachments to the land are a lot like our relationships with children. 
 
When we nurture the soil and other resources needed for farming, the land reciprocates with bountiful production. When we mostly take from the land, eventually its worth plays out.
 
In his book, “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations,” David Montgomery systematically traces the decline of early Persian, Roman and other more recent agrarian societies to farming practices that largely exploited the land without protecting it from wind and water erosion and which did not replace essential nutrients, such as those contained in manure.
 
You may have read in my columns that we can’t control many forces that affect the outcome of farming, such as the weather and, to a great extent, market conditions.
 
But, as I like to say, we can control our behaviors for the most part. We choose whether or not to engage in healthy behaviors.
 
We also can control our farming practices. Here are just a few stewardship practices that are sometimes ignored in favor of maximizing production temporarily. 
 
*Maintain grassed waterways and terraces on sloping ground. 
*Plant filter strips along creeks and rivers to reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff into streams. 
*Apply just enough nitrogen and other crop nutrients and monitor their uptake through tissue analysis and timing of application so leaching and runoff are minimized.
*Disperse manure and odors from animals by distributing their production facilities, thereby also increasing the availability of the manure to nearby terrain.
*Rotate crops so greater biodiversity is fostered than occurs with continuous production of the same crop or alternating two crops every other year, thereby also reducing build-up of pests.
 
Just as we invest in our children so they will be healthy competent adults, we should invest in the long-term health of our agricultural land.
 
Many of you have emailed or called me with ideas you would like me to address in columns, like today’s column. Others have asked for assistance with issues. I thank all of you.


– By Mike Rosmann, Ph.D.