I see bumper stickers from time to time with this message. However, this message just doesn't resonate with me. Granted, it takes a farmer to bring the land into production, but the farmer doesn't make it farmland. The bumper sticker is attempting to get at an issue, a very real issue—that we need more farmers, especially younger farmers. The average age of the American farmer is 57. Yikes! That means there is a lot of really old farmers getting ready to retire. For sure this is an issue, but this bumper sticker, directly or indirectly, incorrectly places the focus on the farmer and not on the land.
It is true that the land and the farmer are tied together, but one really is not a farmer without land. And even more important, one is a better farmer with farmland than most other kinds of land. I would contend that farmland is farmland with or without a farmer. It would be more appropriate to say, "It is not farmed land without a farmer." And just because a farmer no longer wants to farm the land doesn't make it any less farmable or valuable for farming.
Not all farmland is the same. There is no perfect soil type for all crops (e.g., vegetables, dairy or berries), but there are some good general soil types that support a wide variety of farms. The most valuable farmland is what we farmers call "bottom land" and in Western Washington this is typically found in the flood plains. This land is rich and has been traditionally productive for centuries because of the flooding.
Bottom land is the most important land to save for future farmers or “stewards,” if you will. I don't want to conserve this land, I want to actively manage its uniqueness and allow it to feed generations to come. This is the big difference between a conservationist model and a stewardship model. Both have their place, but farmland has a different purpose than a national park or even an industrial park. Each of these uses are important for society and need to be planned for, but farmland is the bedrock of civilization and our nation should work hard to make it difficult to change the use of farmland to other uses.
Thoughtfully, raising food in a very wet year,
A steward of the land