I don’t remember my parents teaching me to recycle.
I don’t remember them ever using the word “green” to describe anything but a color.
I will never forget the countless instances on our farm when they taught my siblings and I to take care of the earth.
My mom is a very religious person.
In her mind, God had entrusted our family with caring for his cattle and pasture land and that meant we had to do it correctly.
Combine this with the fact that my dad is UK Extension Beef Associate.
Basically, his job is to teach beef producers to be the best beef producers they can be.
Between both parents, there was no escaping that every day on our farm would be full of lessons about the most efficient, ethical and environmentally friendly ways to raise cattle.
As kids, we hated this because it usually meant dad would make us do “extra work.”
He always took soil samples of each pasture so that he would know exactly what fertilizer each pasture needed.
This kept us from over fertilizing and was not only better for the land but also meant our grass would grow better meaning high quality food for our cattle.
My dad also insisted that we move our cattle from one pasture to another every few days, a practice called rotational grazing.
Rotational grazing is a very labor intensive practice.
I probably spent years of my childhood moving cattle from one pasture to another!
By making sure that the cattle didn’t spend too much time on one pasture, we ensured that they didn’t eat too much of the grass, which is called overgrazing.
Overgrazing means that the grass won’t grow back as well, which means less to feed the cattle the next time we put them in that pasture.
In addition, overgrazing can damage the soil because the roots of grasses are needed to hold the topsoil in place.
There was no reason to complain about the extra work my parents made us do on our farm.
No matter how hot it was or how tired we were, my parents knew that taking proper care of our cattle and land was more important than giving in to the complaints of their kids.
A few weeks ago, I was behind a couple of teenage girls in the Walmart check-out line.
They were discussing their new school supplies and how many new “green” and “recycled” products Walmart now carried.
One of the girls said,
“My mom used to make us get the recycled pencils when I was in elementary school. She was green before green was cool.”
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself because that’s exactly how I’d describe my parents.
Did we buy the recycled pencils? No.
But my parents were teaching me to care for the farm land and cattle God had entrusted us with for as long as I can remember.