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Sustainability 101 Pathway:

What is Sustainable Agriculture?

 

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Sustainable agriculture practices protect the environment while still meeting society’s food and farming needs. Discover how these farming practices aim to increase environmental health, economic profitability for farmers, and social and economic equity.

With approximately 40% of the world’s population working in agriculture, this industry is the largest global employer. Yet in the past, conventional agriculture has taken a significant toll on natural resources and the environment. That’s why current and future generations are looking for innovative ways to preserve the earth and fight climate change. One key way is adopting sustainable agriculture practices.

The Origin of Sustainable Agriculture

Agricultural sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, long-term stewardship of both natural and human resources is of equal importance to short-term economic gain. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities, and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing the quality of these resources and using them in ways that allow them to be regenerated for the future. Stewardship considerations must also address concerns about animal welfare in farm enterprises that include livestock.

Sustainable agriculture practices protect the environment while still meeting society’s food and farming needs.The farming practices aim to increase environmental health, economic profitability for farmers, and social and economic equity. Sustainable agriculture avoids hazardous pesticides and fertilizers. These practices result in farmers producing crops that are safer for consumers, workers, and their communities. Through proper and careful management of livestock waste, sustainable farmers can protect humans from toxins, pathogens, and other hazardous pollutants.

According to UC Davis, many sustainable practices are often used by people working in agriculture to create sustainable food systems. For example, growers may use methods to minimize water use, promote soil health, and decrease pollution levels. These practices include cover crops, crop rotation, pest management, reducing tillage, and more. Consumers concerned with sustainability can buy “values-based” foods grown using environmentally friendly methods, promoting farmworker well-being, or strengthening the local economy.

Transitioning to Sustainable Ag

Making the transition to sustainable agriculture is a difficult process. Initially, farmers need to take small steps that are realistic for the end goal. It is important to note that each small decision a farmer makes can make a difference and help transition to sustainable agriculture. However, reaching this end goal is not solely the responsibility of farmers. It will take the responsibility of all people involved in the system, including farmers, laborers, consumers, policymakers, researchers, and retailers. Everyone involved has a vital part to play in sustainable agriculture.

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