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As I sit here at my desk, I find myself not in the countryside of eastern Oregon where my family raises dryland wheat and barley, but rather in the vast city of Quito, Ecuador.
In addition to learning Spanish as part of my study-abroad experience, my peers and I have also discussed many environmental issues relevant to the country. These issues include themes like sustainability and proper stewardship of natural resources.
However, it occurred to me during these discussions that it isn’t necessary to look to a tropical country like Ecuador to see these issues because they are present in my own region of the United States — and fortunately, they are being addressed.
For years, my family farmed more or less like every other farmer in the arid hills of eastern Oregon. We followed a summer fallow rotation that involved doing full-width tillage on the stubble ground in the spring, and then maintained the fallow through additional tillage and weeding until the next crop was seeded. This practice, year after year, has led to the deterioration of soil quality, and more importantly, the loss of our soil altogether through erosion. Since scarcely 2 1/2 feet of soil covers the bedrock on our hills, this is of no small concern.
In 1995, my father began the switch from conventional tillage to a direct-seed, or no-till, system. Now, the only piece of equipment that touches the fields, besides the sprayer, is the drills. We simply seed directly into…