Well done, Suzanne Nelson and the Independent, for your article "A case for cows: Beef and dairy can be good for the planet" (March 5). The discussion of methane emissions was worthy of note, but I was most excited to see the additional mention of other environmental practices often utilized on small farms. Cattle are often grazed on land unsuitable for supporting crops, and their waste allows plant matter to continue growing in those areas. Also, rotating crop fields with grazing pastures makes economical sense for the farmer, while allowing the soil to become naturally replenished with nutrients. Small family operations tend to think in the long-term, as often the farms have been held for generations. Often, this choice makes the most environmental sense, as it is the solution that will keep the land and animals healthiest into the future.
Growing up on a small dairy farm in western North Carolina, I am familiar with the local family farmers who often are lumped into the category of large farms and feedlots. Articles like this one help the public see the broader issues at hand. Alas, for many small farmers it is too late, including my father, who, due to increasing costs and his working situation, must sell his herd in less than a month. Hopefully, with more attention and support from the community and journalists to such issues, small, local dairy operations can continue into the future.