I read with interest the Message from the Executive Director about farmer participation in the Bay watershed management decision-making process and also the related article by Lara Lutz (“Branching out / Program helps farmers plant buffers along streams without going out on a limb,” (June 2005) about helping farmers plant buffers along streams.

Both pieces brought up the issue of communications and relations with farmers.

What impresses farmers is words followed by action—and the fewer the words and the more action the better.

I know because I grew up on farms and helped my Mennonite father who worked the farm. Farmers like him don’t talk a lot and they make each word count.

Someone coming to them with a plan for managing their farm and solving all their problems will not get far. Better is a simple plan with few strings attached and helpers to implement it on the spot.

This appears to be the approach of the Farm Stewardship Program.

To go even further, perhaps what we need are more people spending more time with these farmers, observing and learning as well as helping. A few days with a farmer, developing a relationship, can help lead to the subject of what can be done to reduce pollution on a small, practical level.

This is an approach used by (or should be used by) all helping professions: Find out what the problem is first and how the person views it and then offer advice and help.

Your articles and my own current thinking are drawing me back to my roots to get involved.

I suggest more hours working directly with farmers and fewer hours spent developing plans. The conservative farmers in Washington County, MD, and elsewhere will appreciate this kind of attention and respond positively.

After all, they want to conserve what they have in as natural a state as possible. No one wants to conserve polluted and degraded soil and water.

They want their families and farm animals to stay healthy, and they want to obey the Scriptural admonition about being stewards of the Earth.

Tim Shank
Montgomery County, MD