Sustainable agriculture defines the ability of farms and ranches to produce food on an ongoing basis, using natural, pesticide-free methods to provide whole, clean foods. The perpetuation of the farm ecosystem is of paramount importance.
As listed on the Sustainable Table website, the major benefits are:
- Conservation and preservation: What is taken out of the environment is put back in, so land and resources such as water, soil and air can be replenished and are available to future generations. The waste from sustainable farming stays within the farm’s ecosystem and cannot cause buildup or pollution. In addition, sustainable agriculture seeks to minimize transportation costs and fossil fuel use and is as locally-based as possible.
- Biodiversity: Farms raise different types of plants and animals, which are rotated around the fields to enrich the soil and help prevent disease and pest outbreaks. Chemical pesticides are used minimally and only when necessary; many sustainable farms do not use any form of chemicals.
- Animal welfare: Animals are treated humanely and with respect, and are well cared for. They are permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, such as grazing, rooting or pecking, and are fed a natural diet appropriate for their species.
- Economically viable: Farmers are paid a fair wage and are not dependent on subsidies from the government. Sustainable farmers help strengthen rural communities.
- Socially just: Workers are treated fairly and paid competitive wages and benefits. They work in a safe environment and are offered proper living conditions and food.
The Importance of Soil Health
One of the key issues in the methods of sustainable farming is the long-term effects on soil health, which translates into the quality of the food produced. In fact, soil health is critical for any kind of sustainable farming.
Crops depend on soil nutrients and the availability of water. Each season in which crops are grown and harvested, some of the nutrients in the soil are used. If these nutrients are not replenished, the soil eventually suffers from nutrient depletion and becomes either unusable or produces reduced yields. In addition, the crops produced are lower in nutritional value, since the soil is not providing those nutrients.
Sustainable agriculture uses the natural methods of nature to replenish the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas, which in conventional agriculture is used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizer, or phosphate and other mineral ores.
Support Your Local Sustainable Farm
The proliferation and support of sustainable farms are the keys to clean food.
When you buy your produce and meat from farms and ranches which used sustainable methods, you are in effect, ensuring that you and your family have access to clean, whole foods. Foods produced with sustainable agriculture methods are free of pesticides and higher in nutrients because the soils in and on which they are grown are healthy.
In addition, you are taking back your control over your food rights!
When you refuse to buy commercial products from industrial agriculture and factory farms, you are minimizing your support of the processed food and industrial agribusinesses. You are helping to change the market forces which drive the proliferation of unsustainable and harmful agribusiness methods, including genetic engineering, factory farming, confined feedlots, pesticide use, and the environmental impacts of such methods.
So, buy local when you can, organic if possible, and find local sources of meat and dairy products. You’ll be glad you did in the long run. Check out the Local Harvest website and the Eat Wild websites to find sustainable farms in your area.
For a comprehensive list of the benefits of supporting sustainable agriculture and farming, read this list of the benefits on Sustainable Table’s website.