Seed World

This Week’s Eclipse is a Reminder of our Place in Nature

solar eclipse, sun, sky,
Solar eclipse progression from 2017. Photo by Aimee Nielson

This rare phenomenon offered a moment of reflection for the seed industry’s place in nature.

On April 8, we experienced another total solar eclipse in the United States. This one was spectacular, as the path of totality stretched across North America from Mexico through the United States and into the far Eastern part of Canada. Even if you were not in the totality swath, most Americans were able to see some degree of the rare celestial event. Totality lasted about four minutes, but the entire event took several hours as it moves from Southwest to Northeast.

We are subject to the whims of nature. We can employ the most innovative practices and breed the best plants, then sow seeds and use the best farming techniques, but our success ultimately hinges on factors like weather and climate, which are beyond our control (just like lens covers and welding glass being out of stock).

How I protect my telephoto lens during the eclipse. PVC coupling with welder’s glass.

Basing in Kentucky, I had the good fortune of experiencing the last eclipse in 2017. The path was completely opposite, but we still managed to be in it. Before that eclipse, I was clamoring around trying to find last-minute protection for my telephoto lens. Every store was sold out, so I had to punt! After talking it over with a very smart fellow photographer, I purchased a square of welder’s glass and glued it to the end of a PVC coupling. We weren’t the first ones to figure out this trick as most welding supply stores were also sold out. But I found one! It allowed me to take a series of 125 photos that I later assembled in my photo editing software to produce the featured progression image in this column. I’m looking forward to comparing that with the images I took this week.

Amid my preparations, I keep seeing doom news all over the internet and social media. States in the totality path expect large volumes of traffic to catch a glimpse of this event. As a result, they are already declaring states of emergency, activating the National Guard, warning us all to stock up on groceries, gas and other supplies. It’s sensational to me how folks will catastrophize situations and call it preparation. It’s all based on a fear of the unknown. But as seasoned seed leaders and lifelong aggies, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. So, as the 2024 total solar eclipse approached, I used this week as a moment for reflection on the magnificence of nature and our place within it.

Photographing the 2017 eclipse in Kentucky.

All my life, I’ve seen how natural phenomena deeply affect agriculture. The eclipse, with its remarkable display, serves as a reminder that despite our technological progress and careful planning, we are not the masters of nature.

An eclipse also highlights the interconnectedness of all things. It’s not lost on me that our farming practices have far-reaching impacts on the environment and ecosystems. This event calls for humility and respect for the natural world, recognizing our role as part of a larger system.

While the brief darkness of the eclipse was unlikely to have direct effects on seeds and crops, it symbolizes the unpredictability that we all face. We can predict and plan, but we cannot control the outcome. Events like droughts, floods, frosts and freezes can quickly undo months, even years, of hard work.

I hope you took the time to look up, with protective eyewear of course, and observe the eclipse, appreciate the power of nature and reflect on our place in the universe. It was an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to sustainable farming practices that honor the earth’s natural cycles.

As we witnessed the eclipse, it was a reminder of our limitations and the importance of our role as stewards of the land as we try and feed to world.

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As always, it’s an honor to partner with you,