The concept of sustainable farming is fantastic one. Being sustainable means that you can continue your production without continuous help from fuel substances and other finite resources. Sustainable farming uses solar power (literally the sun) to grow their crops instead of fertilizers and pesticides. The crops are sent to be sold, while the rest of the plant is ground up and fed to the animals on the farm. The animals are not caged or mass produced. They eat the organic wastes from the crop. The animals manure then naturally fertilizes the grass that they eat. This manure can be used on the crops as well during the off season. The meaning of a sustainable farm is one that all works in sync together. It is a big circle of life that keeps its self alive.
According to a definition given by UC Davis, “Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals–environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.”
Since WWII, the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides to increase production has greatly increased. So has the production of monoculture crops. “Monoculture” refers to the genetic alteration of a crop so that every single product comes out exactly the same. For example, traditionally food-plants like apples or potatoes grow in a variety of shapes and styles, in order to protect themselves against predators like insects or disease. It’s not useful for mass producers to have variable products, like several different kinds of apples, some of which are oddly shaped and bitter. Instead, they want a homogenous product that’s easy to sell, like sweet, round apples, or French fries made from one a single type of golden-colored potato. So, such farmers genetically alter crops in order to create a “monoculture.” The problem is, these crops are not naturally protected from diseases and insects because they’re all the same – they’re easy to attack. So farmers of such crops have to increase the use of pesticides in order to protect their weakened crops. (Watch or read Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire for a great explanation of monoculture farming.) This type of mass-production farming, using mass amounts of chemicals, is causing problems like topsoil depletion and groundwater contamination. Several large-scale farms have also been attacked for mistreating the laborers working to produce food crops.
In brief, “sustainable agriculture” seeks to right these wrongs, or to avoid them altogether. For example, sustainable agriculture includes practices like organic farming to prevent the leakage of dangerous chemicals into the groundwater and fair trade policies to protect the rights of workers on coffee or cocoa plantations.
The idea of sustainable agriculture began to be discussed at the national level in the 1990s, and continues to this day. It can be hard to define exactly, and thus its definition has consistently generated questions and controversy. The term sustainable implies to continue indefinitely, which some experts favor an emphasis on the idea of resiliency of an agricultural system. Perhaps most importantly, this idea has shed light on the non-sustainable nature of the majority of our current food system, reliant as it is on external, often petroleum-based inputs.
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