I’ve been working as a trade journalist for the better part of a decade. In that time, I’ve covered land drainage and water management, manure management and other agricultural topics, media buying and advertising, broadcasting, entertainment, tech and more. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this line of work, it’s that a lot of people like to think they understand others’ jobs – just think of how often we hear comments like “how hard can that job be?” or “I could easily do that job.” But the only people who truly understand a job are those who have done it themselves.
In the case of drainage, no one understands it like those who are quite literally in the trenches.
Drainage can be a contentious topic. The leaching of phosphorus and nitrogen into waterways has serious consequences, and many have pointed to subsurface agricultural drainage as a contributor to this. What some on the outside don’t always realize, however, is that drainage contractors are highly aware of, and concerned about, such risks – and many are at the table actively contributing to solutions.
Few experts would agree that simply getting rid of subsurface drainage, especially before adjusting other practices in agriculture, would solve environmental or water quality woes. In fact, there’s plenty of research out there that shows that the benefits of drainage are unignorable. Our feature on page 20 reveals that even amidst concerns about hydrology in Vermont, the number-one reason – by far – crops fail in the state is because of excess moisture.
The honorees of our first-ever GroundBreakers program (see page 26 for our feature interviews) were chosen because they understand that drainage, like all trades and practices, is ever-evolving, and that much of the excitement in drainage comes in finding new ways to lay tile and drain land while also protecting waterways. For example, AGREM’s Jeremy Meiners’ passion for drainage design has led to plenty of research in controled drainage, combination systems and more. Consultant Bruce Shewfelt’s career of overseeing large-scale drainage projects has also included the development of best management practices to help keep drainage efficient, effective and equipped to handle the climate challenges of the future. And contractors like Brett Sheffield and Matt Mroz don’t simply place pipe in the ground; they have worked with fellow contractors, specialists and subject matter experts in Canada and the U.S. to help understand what makes Manitoba soils and climate conditions unique – and how to tile for them. Finally, honoree Adam Fisher, owner of the Ditch Doctor, prides himself in always having a finger on the pulse of infrastructure management and effectively spreading awareness on the use case for surface drainage and ditches, the importance of maintenance and more.
Interviewing our GroundBreakers was an eye-opening experience – I didn’t realize there was so much to talk about when it came to drainage, or that after the interviews I would find myself still wanting to know even more. It goes to demonstrate the immense value of different perspectives within drainage and water management. When we have those different perspectives at the table, the industry can not only grow in terms of economics and yield, but also in terms of positive impact to the environment. DC
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