Blog Post: What is Sustainable Agriculture?

With the global population currently at 7,258,997,0331 and growing, agriculture can easily be considered one of the most, if not THE most, important industry on the planet. In fact, our very lives depend on the food produced by the farmers and ranchers of the world.

Now think about this: How many people take the time to ponder where their food actually comes from? How many people ask the simple question, “What’s in the food I’m eating?” How many people ask, “Who grew the food I’m eating?” How many people actually read the labels of the products they purchase from store shelves?

A number of recent global food scandals have motivated many people to start paying close attention to what they eat2. With more than 7 billion people on the planet, now is the time to start asking these types of questions; paying particular attention to “how” food is produced. The reasons and benefits are simple and clear; we all want highest quality food available, free of chemicals and toxins, and delivered at the fairest possible price2.

The response from consumers to these types of questions has led to the creation of movements like “Buy Local”, "Farm to Table”, eating “In Season”, “GMO”, “Organic”, and “Free Range.” Each trend has its own attributes and drawbacks. As a farmer’s daughter, I will try to highlight the benefits of each area and many other topics in my ongoing blog. This leads us to sustainable agriculture…

What is Sustainable Agriculture? According to the USDA website, the term “sustainable agriculture’ (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term3:

•Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
•Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
•Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
•Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
•Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

That definition is a central element of all farmers and ranchers. In my eyes, the agriculture industry’s main goal is sustainability. Sustainable agriculture, in my opinion, is ability to produce food and raw material in a way which encompasses exponential growth of production, stewardship of the natural world, and continuation of responsible practices in a profitable manner. As producers, we have to be able to use our resources effectively and take advantage of the technology at hand to provide for the world.

There are many ways to achieve sustainability with each way being just another tool in the toolbox. The details and considerations of each method will be left to another day. In case you are interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture’s definition or the programs associated, check out the USDA link provided. Until then, peace out with this quote:

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” ~Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington


USDA link:


Image Courtesy: Makayla McGruder, July 2013