One night a few years back, when I was too lazy to even press the remote to another channel, I watched an episode of "The Simple Life."
That was the reality show on which hotel heiress Paris Hilton and sidekick Nicole Richie left their partying ways behind to live on an Arkansas farm.
They learned, of course, that farming is anything but simple.
That is especially true when we think about what farming does to the environment, a timely topic two days before Earth Day.
Farmers have a complicated relationship with soil, water and other resources. They use them to make a profit, and yet they need to sustain them so they can produce crops in future years.
The 43 years since the first Earth Day have not brought a mass conversion to organic farming. That's still a tiny part of the business.
But farmers I know have no problem using practices that, while not organic, can arguably be called sustainable. They monitor pest levels and spray only when truly needed. They apply fertilizer at the times in the growing season when it would do the crop the most good.
They do this in part to save money on pesticides, fertilizers and the tractor fuel needed to apply them. But they also do this out of a belief that they are stewards of the land a religious belief for a good number of them.
Many farmers also will use drip or other water conservation measures. This can be vital in an area where water supplies are short or expensive. With some crops, such as grapes and tomatoes, withholding water at the right time can make for better quality.
But here, again, it's complicated. Many farmers say reduced use of flood irrigation means less recharge or groundwater and less discharge into lower river stretches, where other water users could pick it up.
The intersection of farm and environment is complex in other ways. Many people would like to think of farms as wildlife habitat, but not if this involves a squirrel that tracks E. coli bacteria onto spinach leaves that someone eats. There's also a movement toward buying local food to reduce the impact of shipping, but the Modesto area economy depends very much on exporting nuts, wine and other products.
Earth Day and other efforts at environmental awareness have done plenty of good. Farmers no longer spray DDT, banned in the 1960s after it did serious damage to eagles. We no longer have big dust clouds when almonds are harvested (just little dust clouds, but they're working on it).
We're moving toward a balance between farm and nature a balance that can be maintained as long as we don't let Paris and Nicole spray pesticides.
Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.