What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

Photo by Debbie Roos.

A sustainable agriculture does not deplete soils or people.” –Wendell Berry, author and poet 

The three corner stones of sustainable agriculture–  ecological soundness, economic viability, and social responsibility– rest upon  a foundation of intergenerational equity. Intergenerational equity, in turn,  has its foundation in human spirituality. Sustainability applies the Golden  Rule across generations.”
–Dr. John Ikerd, economist

 

 

Our society is based on agriculture: farmers provide most of  the raw materials that feed and clothe us all. Sustaining that foundation is  essential to sustaining our society. So sustainable agriculture is about more than specific farming practices or the number of miles between the farmer’s  field and your plate.

To be environmentally sound, an agriculture system should enhance and  not degrade the natural resource base for future generations: They should have  at least as much as the current inhabitants of the planet and hopefully more.

To be economically viable, an agriculture system should ensure farmers  receive a fair wage for their efforts/products, should ensure that healthy food  is available to all consumers at a reasonable cost, and should ensure our rural  agrarian communities remain viable.

To be socially just, an agriculture system must factor in the social  impacts of fair wages, migrant labor, and rural community health. In addition,  the system must provide the most nutritious products, thus establishing a  foundation for good health in our society and for future generations.

Currently, our food system in the U.S. is defined by industrial  values, not the values of sustainability. This industrial farming system  provides a bounty of products for relatively low prices but the socioeconomic  costs of environmental and human health degradation, government subsidies,  migrant labor, loss of family farms, and declining rural communities are not  reflected in the price at the store.  CFSA and hundreds of other organizations,  and millions of people, across the country and the world are working to restore  a food system that enhances the health and well-being of our soils and our people.

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