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Educating Our Youth is Key to Future Conservation
By: Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist - 04/19/2017

Today, it is estimated that there are more than 7 billion people on our planet and 925 million of them are malnourished. Projections indicate that we'll have 3 billion more people in the next 50 years. And while our population continues to grow, our farmland continues to decline each year here in Indiana and across the country. We are also facing a changing environment where threats to our air, water, soil and wildlife are real, yet obtaining healthy and plentiful food is on the forefront of everyone's mind.

Because 90 percent of the land in Indiana is privately owned, the fate of our natural resources is not going to be decided on public lands, but by farmers and forestland owners making conservation decisions every day. One of the best conservation decisions they can make is to embrace a soil health management system. Good soil health management builds a resiliency in the soil that can withstand the environmental threats we are facing. But even better, farmers are seeing increases in production and ultimately to their bottom line.

So when should we begin talking about the importance of soil health and other natural resource issues?

Education is the foundation for progress and it's critical we start educating our youth about soil health and managing our other natural resource issues early. Environmental education compliments every aspect of a balanced curriculum and encourages success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs. By starting early, young people learn how to explore environmental issues and engage in problem solving. As a result, they develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues, connect classroom learning to tangible local issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions.

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, now is the perfect time to start talking to your children or your students. Teachers, consider starting an environmental curriculum in your classroom. If you already have one, consider expanding it and discussing the importance of soil health and other natural resource concerns facing your community.

This Earth Day, I'd like to give a heartfelt thank you to our Indiana educators, farmers, backyard gardeners and conservationists who are doing their part to protect our soil and who are taking the time to educate our future generations about our natural resources. Educating our youth is key to future conservation.

If you would like to learn more about improving the health of your soil stop by the NRCS office nearest you to talk to a district conservationist or go online to www.in.nrcs.usda.gov.

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