Bringing Cultural Change

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by Roger Ross Gipple

What is now called Iowa was previously one of the most biodiverse places in North America. Today it is one of the most biologically altered. From a narrow human perspective much has been gained in that process…but important things have also been lost.

Valuable Iowa topsoil and nutrients are flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico. Water quality is greatly diminished. The state has 21.3 million acres with slopes of 0 to 5%. Some of these acres are on frequently flooding river bottoms. It also has 8.88 million acres with slopes above 9%. Which areas are appropriate for agriculture and which are better suited for natural systems (woodland-wetland-prairie)? What about the acres between 5 and 9% slope? Can they be long-term productive for agriculture while in grazed or harvested perennials? The BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY Vision calls for 25% of Iowa’s 36 million acres to be permanently wild. These restored areas will be primarily on frequently flooding river bottoms and steep slopes.

We must create a low input, sustainable agriculture. We will do this by simultaneously creating a low input, sustainable larger culture. What consumers purchase and the prices they are willing to pay determine what farmers produce and the methods used in that process. This is the story of a wilder, more beautiful, more biologically diverse, and a more enduring Mississippi River Watershed.