What a narrow subject for today’s time of gratitude. I myself am not overly knowledgeable about the inner workings of what makes agriculture sustainable.
I am, however, grateful for the growing number of options widely accessible to choose more consciously smart options when grocery shopping, and the greater awareness we have about our habits and how to make necessary tasks more sustainable.
We can look up the many documentaries and information out there about how corrupt mass production of foods and textiles can be, the immense damage it causes to our environment. From the waste left over to the health of nearby soils and water sources, there are plenty of ways to go wrong.
Again, I’m not a farmer, nor do I have any agricultural background to discuss these topics from. I’m grateful for some of my friends who do know more about this industry and are open and welcome to discuss them. We might have different views, but it’s beautiful when seemingly opposing opinions can still come together and have engaging conversation.
Anyways, the golden question here is, what is sustainable farming? The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Every person involved in the food system—growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers—can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system.
Since the second World War, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in what agriculture looks like. Rather than a plethora of family farms, many of which produce and take care of the individual family running it and/or the local community, agricultural activity has soared and has become the industrial-sized practice we see today. This is all thanks to new technology, mechanization, increased chemical use, and a push for capitalistic ideals in all areas of life.
Despite the increased production, the land and people have suffered from this swift transition. Prominent among these are topsoil depletion, groundwater contamination, the decline of family farms, continued neglect of the living and working conditions for farm laborers, increasing costs of production, and the disintegration of economic and social conditions in rural communities.
The process to change our current ways and go back to a philosophy that values every single thing involved in agriculture doesn’t happen overnight. We can’t just flip a switch and expect a whole new mindset that everyone agrees with. In fact, we need a interdisciplinary approach that incorporates everyone, from farmers, researchers, consumers, and politicians to refocus our attention not on how much and how quickly we can streamline farming, but how to make farming beneficial for every single factor at play.
Common practices involved to tote yourself as sustainable agriculture include the following: rotating crops to promote biodiversity specific to your geography; planting “cover crops” during off-seasons to ensure the soil doesn’t stay bare and vulnerable to the elements; using integrated pest management that totes mechanical and biological controls to keep pests away without relying heavily upon pesticides; and utilizing more eco-friendly ways in the farming process that conserve water, avoid excess pollution, and use renewable energy sources.
We cannot see the land as something created strictly for our business mentalities. Economically, it makes sense why we should only grow the highest selling products, devoting large chunks of land to a single crop, and using the easiest and cheapest ways to grow and reap the most benefits as possible. But the environment is not here for our economic gains. We’re here to cherish the beauty and gifts surrounding us. We’re here to converse what we have so more people, plants and animals can all enjoy these gifts, too.
I’m grateful that we see growing abundance of organic options in supermarkets across the country, as well as greater promotion of local farmers and farmers markets. I’m grateful for the locally grown produce straight from family farmers who take great pride and care of their land. I’m grateful for the innovators out there who continue seeking out better, more sustainable ways we can be even more conscious of how we treat the land and what is healthiest for not only us, but every living thing.
I’m grateful for my hope in humanity, that we can do our best for nature, soak in the information we can about what is right and wrong when approaching agriculture. It’s necessary for the food in our kitchens and clothes on our backs, but if we support the large-scale companies exploiting the planet, what gratitude is that showing? What kind of people do we want to truly support?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie