A brown fawn sits hidden among the tall greenery at Parky's Farm
Photo by Eric King

I went for a hike the other day and saw a fawn nibbling on leaves in the woods, a beaver stripping bark and leaves off a branch to chew on, and a hawk catching a sparrow for dinner. I have to say, it was a pretty cool hike! Right? … OK that didn’t really happen, but over years of hiking, I have seen all of the animals listed above and more searching for dinner in the woods and fields in Ohio. As I hike, I often like to snack on something, just like these animals.

Pausing during a hike once, someone in my party commented on how we (referring to humans in general) could ‘Never survive in the wild.’ The comment stuck with me because my thought was that ‘We all live in the wild.’ Yes, we shop at grocery stores and live in houses, but we live in the same world as all the cool plants and animals we love and aim to protect.

Just like wildlife, we need to eat too! We rely on farms that rely on the ‘wild’ to produce food for us. In the conservation community, farms tend to get a bad rap. They use pesticides and fertilizer, create erosion and destroy animal habitats. However, a growing number of farmers are becoming part of the solution. Farms cover about 40% of the land on earth and as such, have a huge impact on our wildlife, water quality and the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

Photo by Kyle Spradley/MU College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources

Sustainable and ecological farming practices can green and feed the world. Practicing regenerative farming reduces carbon dioxide production and draws carbon dioxide back into the soil. The use of cover crops keyline and no-till practices prevent erosion and help keep our waterways clear. Encouraging mycorrhizae fungi in the soil protects plants from disease and pests, therefore reducing the amount of pesticide and fertilizers needed. Permaculture design helps reduce flooding and the need to irrigate. The list goes on with these ideas, only scratching the surface of what farmers are already doing.

Also just like wildlife, humans need water. That’s why it’s important to have clean and safe water. Starting this year, Ohio’s H2Ohio Fund has met unexpected success with both conventional and sustainable farmers to implement practices to reduce runoff into Lake Erie and prevent algae blooms.  

Purple coneflower lines the fields at Shaker Trace Nursery in Miami Whitewater Forest.
At Shaker Trace Nursery in Miami Whitewater Forest, Great Parks harvests and stores native seed for habitat restoration projects, and raises native fish for sustainable stocking.

As wildlife enthusiasts, hikers, birders and consumers, we can influence farmers through how we shop. Visit a farmers market and ask about their farming practices, join a CSA or order your sustainable food online through organizations like Local Food Connection. While Local Food Connection doesn’t have pickup locations right now, they are delivering local food straight to you.

Why? Because the deer, beaver, hawk and I all want to eat our snacks and live in the wild!

Ellen Meehan, Nature Interpreter, Parky’s Farm