Posted August 5, 2021 | By: Nutrien Ag Solutions
Conversation About Conservation: Ward Burton
Ward Burton, beloved NASCAR driver and native Virginian, has loved wildlife and conservation from a young age. Still as big of an advocate for land conservation and sustainability as ever, he enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion across the racing and agriculture communities. As the father of our current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, Burton started his wildlife foundation back in 1996, which was the first foundation ever to be established by a NASCAR driver. We sat down with Burton to discuss his foundation, his passion for land conservation and the difference Nutrien Ag Solutions is making in sustainable agriculture.
Q: Why is land conservation important to you?
A: It’s important to me because it’s everyone’s responsibility to make a difference and take care of our natural resources. That’s what land conservation is – making long-term and short-term decisions that are going to affect our land for future generations.
Q: How did your passion for conservation and sustainability begin?
A: I was lucky to have many great role models growing up. My dad and mom spent a lot of time outdoors with me, and they gave me the freedom to be outdoors too when growing up. My granddad was a big fisherman and duck hunter too, so I just spent a lot of time outdoors. In addition, a dear friend owned over 1,123 acres and let his children and me use it as an outdoor playground. By spending time with our close family friend, I learned how we were stewards of the land.
That 1,123 acres in South Boston, Virginia is now part of the land the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation owns and is part of our conservation model.
Q: Explain what land conservation means to you.
A: Conservation in today’s time is using all the resources of knowledge and technology that’s available to you. For example, have a stewardship plan to restore land, or use the agricultural land properly.
The more diverse habitats you can have, the more different types of wildlife will flourish, like migrating birds or just a salamander. Restoring the lands and bringing back the diverse wildlife is key in conservation.
Q: What prompted you to start your wildlife foundation?
A: I started it in 1996, and it was the first NASCAR driver foundation. The main reason I created it was because I wanted to give back to the great outdoors that has given me so much in my life. Little did I know it would take a life of its own and really make a difference.
I’m most proud of how we are becoming sustainable. We own about 10,000 acres of land, and we have a stewardship plan for every single acre. I have great staff, and at the end of the day, the mission statement is well and alive. It’s about trying to make a difference in our natural resources for our present and future generations.
Q: What’s one thing about sustainability/conservation that you wish every grower and landowner knew?
A: Most of the 21st century farmers know just about every resource, especially those that come with partnering with Nutrien Ag Solutions. The one thing that I see that could be utilized more is perpetual sustainability – tools like conservation easements and other biodiversity programs. There are wonderful tools for landowners and farmers, but there is not enough open dialogue about it.
Q: What are some recent technological advancements in land conservation that excite you?
A: Well, I’m learning a whole lot about technology and agriculture by partnering with Nutrien Ag Solutions. The biggest technological advancement that excites me is how advanced soil sampling is in agriculture. I never knew the technology existed before, and I'm eager to learn more.
Q: What do you hope Nutrien Ag Solutions can bring to the table in terms of sustainability now and in the future?
A: We are living in a time where there are so many more resources than ever before, even 10 years ago. The world is changing so quickly, and Nutrien Ag Solutions is doing the research and making advancements in technology and science to help their growers succeed season after season.
If we didn’t have this technology with the population growing as much as it is now, we would be in a dire situation. We are lucky we have the technology to get more yield per acre for any type of crop.
Q: How have your local crop consultants and agronomists impacted conservation and sustainability on your land?
A: I have a scientific formula in writing on what the profile of the land looks like. Some of the land used to be utilized for farming back in the 1960s, so I’ve gone back and used that specific land for agriculture. If I hadn’t teamed up with Nutrien Ag Solutions, I wouldn't have known about the soil type to understand the profile of my land.
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