Guest Blog: Here's how we keep our water clean, Iowa

Originally posted on: Heartland Fresh Family Farm's blog

If there’s one thing all Iowans know to be true, it’s this: We’re serious about agriculture here. In a state where livestock and crops are our literal bread and butter, we, more than anyone, need to make an effort to nurture the land around us.

This is one reason it’s so troubling to see Iowa’s water-quality issues becoming increasingly more critical.

According to the Des Moines Register, the Des Moines Water Works set a record in 2015 for the number of days out of the year its nitrate-removal equipment was operational. And how are these nitrates getting into our water in the first place? Among other things, farm drainage systems on conventionally tilled ag land can allow fertilizer and other nitrate-rich runoff to drain directly into nearby streams and rivers – the same streams and rivers we get our drinking water from.

In fact, this nitrate problem has become so severe thatGovernor Branstad is proposing to allocate a portion of the growth of the state wide One Penny Sales Tax school house fund from our kids’ schools to pay for more water treatment efforts, according to statements he made at a January press conference.

A recent editorial from Field and Stream took a rather harsh look at Iowa’s efforts so far to tackle this issue. It noted the Nutrient Reduction Strategy currently in place, which asks farmers to take voluntary measures to reduce their use of nitrates – and, according to Field and Stream, that measure is just not good enough anymore.

Everyone needs to get on board with committing to keep water clean, and all Iowans need to support those farmers who do.

So what can you do to help promote clean water in our state besides not fertilizing your back yard(another serious source of nitrate pollution)?

First, buy your meat and produce from local farmers who you know practice environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture – the kind that provides rich bounty even as it protects the land and renews it each year. This method, called regenerative or “no-till” farming, is not only proven to work (heck, it’s been used by farmers for centuries), but it can actually reverse the poor water quality and other environmental issues caused by more current farming methods.

Regenerative farming is completely natural. Without tilling, pesticides, fertilizers and other unnatural farming practices, crops are allowed to grow naturally and the microorganisms that grow with them remain intact, which ensures the land stays ripe for the next round of planting.

At Heartland Fresh Family Farm, we practice grass-based agriculture. We move our animals from pasture to pasture, allowing them to graze on our grass – this provides healthy, natural nutrition for the animals and keeps the land completely fertilized without resorting to chemicals or unnatural pesticides. Our animals are all we need to keep our land fertile, and the land provides our livestock with the same nurturing benefits.

Grass-based agriculture completely eliminates the need for the nitrate-rich chemicals other farmers use – if all farmers got on board, think of the time, money and water we would all save – it’s real-life evidence that cows are all you need for an effective, sustainable operation.

Supporting farms like ours is one of the best ways you, as an individual, can help improve our water quality, reduce waste and virtually eliminate erosion. If not, you may be supporting pollution of our water supply.

Learn more about Heartland Fresh Family Farm, you can even order their product online!