Years ago, when I was a North Dakota farm kid, my family — like a lot of other farm families — planted a shelterbelt around the farmstead. My two younger sisters and I had to hoe the fledgling trees for several years. Well, one sister did. The other schemed (successfully) to get out of doing any work.
Shelterbelts, in case you don’t know, are rows of trees intended to shield farmsteads, reduce erosion in fields and provide habitat for wildlife.
Now, I’ve graduated to writing about shelterbelts, also known as windbreaks. But in the many years since I worked with that hoe, most farmers’ attitude toward shelterbelts have changed. Once, shelterbelts were seen by just about about everyone as a good thing. Today, the widespread view is that bigger farm equipment and modern farming practices have made windbreaks an obstacle and nuisance. Piles of trees in fields from dismantled windbreaks have become a familiar sight in the region.
Supporters of shelterbelts says the tree rows still have a useful role
The issue can get emotional, especially when healthy trees are removed.
Read my cover story in the June 20 issue of Agweek.