Stuck indoors on yet another incredibly soggy, rainy Fall day, trying not to worry about the soaked and un-harvested cotton and soybeans in the waterlogged fields makes me want to focus on something else. My mind turns to worry instead about the watermen and farmers we met on our recent VALOR trip to Tangier Island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, and the other ag and aqua businesses of the Northern Neck of Virginia. It’s easy to imagine Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge doing the same sorts of things we crop farmers are doing right now. Trying NOT to think about the missed days of work, the threat to this year’s income, the possible damage to property from excess wind and rain and tides.
Our recent trip to the Northern Neck of Virginia was a clear example of the similarities between those of us that harvest from the land and those that harvest from the water. While we visited both agricultural and aquacultural businesses, producing a wide variety of products, from vegetables, Natto soybeans, and row crops, to oysters, crabs, and menhaden, there were obvious themes that connect both industries.
A strong work ethic, fair treatment of laborers, dedication to family and tradition, vision and optimism about the future.
Best uses of resources, innovative use of state-of-the-art specialized equipment, vigilant attention to costs, thoughtful planning and marketing, early adoption of new technologies, careful use of advanced genetic research to improve product quality and yields.
The seasonal cycles of planting and seeding, cultivating and tending, harvesting and marketing, maintaining and repairing, then, maybe, resting.
Long hours and hard work during harvest, passion about their industry, dedication to the efficient and effective completion of the tasks at hand.
Patience during challenges, perseverance through hard times, adaptation to change.
And pride. In the deep knowledge of their industry, the care for a community and of a way of life, and in the passing of that knowledge and tradition to another generation, and another.
And always, always, subservience to the weather.
And also, always, good stewardship of the natural resources vital to each of these industries.
Responsible and targeted use of nutrients and of crop protection products. Feeding the crop what it needs, but not too much. Controlling damaging insects, invasive plants, predatory pests and diseases, without harming other species or the environment. Using conservation practices and sustainable techniques to maintain resources for the future.
Using techniques that preserve the existing terrain of a field, the organic matter of the soil, or the integrity of an oyster bed, or of a wild population of fish. Changing practices to lessen environmental impacts and reduce pollution. Implementing best management practices that ensure the continued improvement of the health of the land and of the water.
Together, those that harvest from the land and those that harvest from the water, working hard in responsible ways to provide food, fiber and countless other products in ways that respect both the land and the water. Doing this work so that everyone else can pursue their own passions without worrying about food, clothes, or the endless list of other products that originate from both land and water. Doing it in ways that preserve and enhance and improve everyone else’s way of life.
Agriculture and Aquaculture – harvesting from the land and the waters in partnership with our natural resources and the weather. Now we wait for the excess water to recede from the land, for the rains and winds to depart, and for the high tides to return to their normal levels, so maybe we could all stop worrying and get back to the harvest.
Wishing for all, sunshine and slick calm. And many thanks to Joaquin for turning Northeast.