Buzzwords like “sustainability” and “conservation” may seem au courant to Madison Avenue marketers but for Jennifer James, a fourth generation rice farmer from Arkansas, these concepts are nothing new. “Farmers are the first conservationists,” says James, “and sustainability has carried over in agriculture from generation to generation.”
Prudent management of natural resources is essential to farmers — in the short term, where the goal is to increase production and profitability, and also in the long term, to protect human health and the environment. This “do more with less” approach requires creativity and commitment, depending on advances in science and technology to keep farmers on the cutting edge.
At her family’s farm, James often taps the expertise available from rice research programs at the nearby University of Arkansas. She says, “We follow their recommendations about minimum levels of fertilizer and pesticides, which is better economically and environmentally. Another thing we do here is level our fields so they have very little slope. This helps conserve water. We also make an effort to recycle water with our tail water recovery system and this helps reduce energy costs.”
Whether it is management of natural resources or boosting yields to meet the demands of a hungry planet, research and technology play a key role in the future of farming. People like James will continue to move the process forward because they know innovation plus conservation is not simply a sales pitch but, for farmers, it’s a legacy.