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What is Sustainable Agriculture?

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Sustainable agriculture refers to an agricultural production and distribution system that is economically viable for farmers and ranchers, environmentally healthy, and supportive of local communities and rural areas.

Some goals of sustainable agriculture systems are the following:

  • Achieving the integration of natural biological cycles and controls,
  • Protecting and renewing soil fertility and the natural resource base,
  • Optimizing the management and use of on-farm resources,
  • Reducing the use of nonrenewable resources and purchased production inputs,
  • Providing an adequate and dependable farm income,
  • Promoting opportunity in family farming and farm communities, and
  • Minimizing adverse impacts on health, safety, wildlife, water quality and the environment.

How producers reach those goals is as different as prairie flowers dotting a Midwest landscape. A cattle rancher might divide his rangeland into sub-sections for his herd to graze in a rotational strategy to better manage natural resources like streams and soil while improving animal productivity. A field crop farmer might plant different crops each season - and include “cover crops,” non-cash crops grown for their benefit to the soil and ability to suppress weeds – to break up pest cycles, improve soil fertility and cut as directly to restaurants in a nearby city, to gain a larger share of the consumer food dollar. No single practice works in every field. No one recipe works on every farm. There are thousands of ways to farm more sustainably.

Reference: National SARE Program