Sustainability is a hot term right now. We are hearing it more and more as our earth gets older and older. There is concern on where we are heading and what that may look like. So, what is sustainability? What does it have to do with sustainable agriculture? Most importantly, what does it have to do with you?
How to define sustainability?
Sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes (Wikipedia). This can really be applied to anything and everything. However, it’s most commonly associated with biological issues. Sustainability in the biology sense means being able to survive and thrive on it’s own. For example, a forest won’t be able to maintain it’s systems and processes if we cut all the trees down. The animals will leave and there will be a wasteland leftover.
What is sustainable agriculture?
In taking with the definition of sustainability, it’s easy to see how this can apply to agriculture. Sustainabletable.org defines sustainable agriculture as “the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.
Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine a small farm in the heartland. You know the ones from your kid’s storybooks? There are dairy cows and chickens. There is an extra large garden with ripe tomatoes and bean plants as tall as you. It’s an oasis and picture perfect version of what farming used to mean. This is sustainable agriculture.
These farmers are the ones you will find at the Farmer’s Market. They are the ones that sell you the CSA membership. A lot of these farmers are finally able to branch out to grocery stores and restaurants. This is the movement towards sustainable agriculture and away from “Big Ag” or industrial agriculture. The USDA-Website has a national listing of farmers’ markets.
Industrial Agriculture vs Sustainable Agriculture.
Thousands of years ago, plants and animals thrived. You could go collect them easily without planting a garden each year and buying steaks at your grocery store. Now, we live in a very different world. Now you have to pay a premium for organic foods and industrial agriculture has taken over our food supply.
Industrial agriculture uses genetically modified seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and chemicals to create mass amounts of food. This has become what people think of as “farming” today. Because of these practices, big ag has pushed the small family farms out of business as they just cannot compete.
Industrial agriculture may have hindered sustainable agriculture but sustainable farmers are on the rise again. There is more and more research being done and awareness being spoken out about these disastrous practices. It’s not only bad for your health, but the environment is being decimated as well.
Sustainable Agriculture and You.
Now that you have learned what sustainable agriculture is, how does it affect you? Well, the most obvious way is in the food you eat. Have you ever wondered where all those groceries you buy every week come from? Take a closer look. The difference between industrial agriculture and sustainable agriculture affects you most by the health benefits.
Most grocery stores have started to offer locally grown produce. This is where sustainable farming comes in! Take a look at this type of sustainable food and know you are feeding a family instead of a corporation. Know you are getting chemical free produce over beans that have been sprayed to death with chemicals.
It’s not just in your produce either! Check out where your protein comes from, too. Make sure you aren’t getting beef or chicken injected full of antibiotics and chemicals. Know what you are eating!
Take it your own hands – Sustainable gardening. There are other options if you cannot find sustainable agriculture near you. Creating your own sustainable garden is a great way to promote this movement and get healthy beautiful food as a bonus. It can be a great food source, a stress reducing hobby, and a focal point for your backyard.
Don’t have a backyard? There are still more options! There are more and more community doing sustainable gardening. This is a wonderful way to promote healthy produce and inspires communities to replace parts of the concrete jungle with beautiful tomato plants.
Sustainable agriculture is the wave of the future. Industrial agriculture has wreaked havoc on our environment and health. Sustainable agriculture can be the answer to both hot button issues. Spread the word. Our environment and future generations depend on it. What are you doing to help?