Welcome to Sustainable Ag! We thought we would share a little about what sustainable agriculture is, and why it is important to humans, plants and animals alike. So read on! If you ever have any questions, we would be happy to help!
The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Every person involved in the food system—growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers—can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system.
There are many practices commonly used by people working in sustainable agriculture and sustainable food systems. Growers may use methods to promote soil health, minimize water use, and lower pollution levels on the farm. Consumers and retailers concerned with sustainability can look for “values-based” foods that are grown using methods promoting farmworker wellbeing, that are environmentally friendly, or that strengthen the local economy. And researchers in sustainable agriculture often cross disciplinary lines with their work: combining biology, economics, engineering, chemistry, community development, and many others. However, sustainable agriculture is more than a collection of practices. It is also process of negotiation: a push and pull between the sometimes competing interests of an individual farmer or of people in a community as they work to solve complex problems about how we grow our food and fiber.
Agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II. Food and fiber productivity soared due to new technologies, mechanization, increased chemical use, specialization and government policies that favored maximizing production. These changes allowed fewer farmers with reduced labor demands to produce the majority of the food and fiber in the U.S.
Although these changes have had many positive effects and reduced many risks in farming, there have also been significant costs. Prominent among these are topsoil depletion,the decline of family farms, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, increasing costs of production, and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities.
Written by Gail Feenstra