Iowa Learning Farm premieres Ecological Video Series: Building a Culture of Conservation

Jacqueline Comito, executive producer and script writer of the Iowa Learning Farm video series, “A Culture of Conservation,” is seen videotaping at Ada Hayden Lake near Ames.

By Carol Brown

Building a Culture of Conservation involves the passion of many minds, hands and voices. Rekindling the respect, love and conservation of our precious natural resources is at the heart of the concept, as well as the Iowa Learning Farm (ILF) that was started to encourage all Iowans to have an active role in protecting and preserving these resources.

In order to promote this culture of conservation, ILF produced a seven-minute video, “Building a Culture of Conservation: Iowan to Iowan,” which debuted at the annual Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) conference in November 2007. County soil and water commissioners enjoyed the video and approached ILF assistant project manager Jacqueline Comito about making a series of conservation pieces. They were seeking outreach tools to help educate and inform fellow Iowans about the importance of soil and water. Comito received a SWCD Initiatives grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and five additional videos are now available for use throughout the state.

Producing a film takes time and talent, and producing five films simultaneously can be daunting. Comito served as executive producer for this project. Upon reflection, she was surprised and pleased by how many people became involved with the project.

“I am amazed by how many people had a hand in the production,” said Comito, a parishioner and music minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ames. “Much of the content is based on listening sessions we held throughout Iowa over the past two years with staff from various agencies and with farmers. Hopefully, these films will be used to start a dialogue among all Iowans, farmers as well as non-farmers, to talk about our land and water usage.”


The Videos

The videos can be shown individually or collectively and each video is approximately seven minutes long. The viewer does not need to see one to understand the next. All carry a specific, individual message.

In “Don’t Call it Dirt: A Passion for Soil,” viewers are asked to think about how soil is used and are offered ways in which everyone can improve soil quality and keep it where it belongs.

“The Work of Our Hands” discusses the relationship of societies and agriculture, historically and today.  A quote from the video offers a glimpse, “Humans have lived as both a species within the environment and as innovators in shaping the environment to suit their purposes. Some ancient cultures carefully protected their resources, while others were destructive or, at best, shortsighted in their behavior.”

The “Water is Life” video reminds us how important clean water is to our bodies, our communities and our Earth.

 “We All Have a Place in the Watershed” defines watersheds and how we interact within them. “Our watersheds provide water for drinking, agriculture production, irrigation and industry. Lakes and streams are settings for outdoor activities and recreation. Healthy watersheds provide food and shelter for a diversity of plants and animals.”

“A Culture of Conservation: Reclaiming Stewardship” highlights just a few Iowans who are working to achieve this goal. Floyd County SWCD commissioner and ILF conservationist Jon Gisleson offers his point of view, “Everybody’s got a responsibility to be concerned about what’s happening to our ground water and our surface water. Everybody has a responsibility — whether you own (land) or not.”

Originally Iowa

Although the videos are primarily Iowan — words, images, music and personnel — the message is applicable to all the Midwestern states. Video production is by Jon Anderson with Iowa State University Extension marketing and communications. Comito served as head script writer with contributions from ISU Extension water quality engineer Matt Helmers, ISU associate professor and Heartland Regional Water Initiative leader Lois Wright Morton, and Heartland Regional Water Initiative project coordinator Jean McGuire, as well as the entire ILF team.

The music in the videos was composed by Ann Staudt, a native Iowan originally from Floyd County. Staudt, along with the musical group Joyful Hearts, were inspired by the themes and images of Iowa that are presented in the videos. Staudt was happy to have the music, which reflects her rural upbringing, as a significant part of the video series.

“There is only so much that policy and government programs can do to inspire individuals to become better stewards of the land,” said Staudt, a graduate student in environmental engineering at Notre Dame. “In order to protect our natural resources, we need to change our consumption patterns. The Gospels speak directly to this and our churches have a role to play.”

Get your copy

The videos are being widely distributed throughout Iowa and the Midwest. Educators, church and community leaders who would like to receive a copy may contact the Iowa Learning Farm. The ILF team hopes that these videos will inspire dialogue between us as well as actions to help preserve our vital resources for now and for the future.

“Our society is now faced — in Washington and Des Moines and everywhere policies are formed — with profound choices in food, energy and natural resource management. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that ‘Our earth speaks to us, and we must listen if we want to survive.’ I hope church groups will use these videos to listen to the earth, examine their lifestyles and begin to build ecological communities based on a Gospel of hope and action for the planet,” stated Comito.

To obtain a copy of the Iowa Learning Farm “Building A Culture of Conservation” videos or DVD, contact Carol Brown at (515) 294-8912 or e-mail

Iowa Learning Farm is a partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources; in cooperation with Conservation Districts of Iowa and the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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