image from Diego James Navarro

10 Great Facts About Sustainable Agriculture

image from Diego James Navarro

image from Diego James Navarro

Here in February, we’ve been doing a lot of talking about sustainable agriculture with our friends and family. Its always interesting to discuss the finer points of what you’re trying to do with your life on a daily basis. Its also good to find out a little more about what you believe in and how the world agrees with your thought process.

There are four major goals to achieving sustainable agriculture in the world:

  • Satisfy human food needs, and contribute to biofuel needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality.
  • Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole.

10 Great Facts About Sustainable Agriculture

  1. 40% of today’s global population works in agriculture, making it the single largest employer in the world.

  2. Sustainable agriculture is the rejection of the industrial approach to food production (aka factory farms). It integrates three main things: environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
  3. The ecological and social price of factory farms is: erosion, deforestation, depleted and contaminated soil and water resources, loss of biodiversity, labor abuses, and the decline of family farms.
  4. The concept of sustainable agriculture embraces a wide range of techniques, including organic, free-range, low-input, holistic, and biodynamic.
  5. With this type of farming, chemical pesticides or fertilizers aren’t necessary, crop diversity is encouraged, and precipitation provides irrigation water.
  6. Organic farming typically requires 2.5 times more labor than conventional farming, but it yields 10 times the profit.
  7. Organic food products saw a 7.7% growth rate in 2010, compared to 2009. Organic food accounts for nearly 4% of all food products sold in the U.S.
  8. In contrast, 88% of corn and 94% of soybeans were genetically modified in 2011. This number was less than 20% in 1996.
  9. “Healthy” soil is an important component of sustainability. Methods to enhance and protect the productivity of the soil include using cover crops, compost/manures, avoiding traffic on wet soils, and maintaining soil cover with plants/mulches.
  10. The goal of sustainable farmers is to develop efficient, biological systems that don’t need high levels of material inputs (aka harmful chemicals).

Just in case you think we might have pulled this out of the blue, here are our sources:

Sources

  1. CGIAR. “Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2012: Lessons in Sustainable Landscapes and Livelihoods.” 2012.

  2. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  3. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  4. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  5. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  6. The Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  7. Center for Sustainable Systems at University of Michigan. “U.S. Food System Factsheet.” 2014.
  8. Center for Sustainable Systems at University of Michigan. “U.S. Food System Factsheet.” 2014.
    National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”

  9. Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis. “What is Sustainable Agriculture?”
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