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Looking at Agricultural Sustainability

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Presentation on theme: "Looking at Agricultural Sustainability"— Presentation transcript:

1 Looking at Agricultural Sustainability
Sustainable Small Acreage Farming & Ranching Understanding “Sustainability” and “Whole Farm” Concepts

2 What is sustainable agriculture?
Sustainable Small Acreage Farming & Ranching

3 USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program definition
Satisfies human food and fiber needs; Enhances environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; Makes the most efficient use of nonrenewable and on-farm resources and integrates, where appropriate, natural and biological cycles and controls; Sustains the economic viability of agricultural operations and their communities; and Enhances the quality of life for farmers and ranchers and society as a whole. There are numerous definitions of sustainable agriculture to be found. One that is universally accepted is the USDA SARE definition.

4 Ron Macher, Small Farm Today, says this about sustainable agriculture:
Continuous cycle that does not wear out the land or the farmer Replenishes livestock and crops Enables the family to continue farming Diversity Profitable Environmentally sound and socially acceptable Ran Macher, Editor of Small Farm Today and a small acreage farmer himself, provides this definition of sustainable agriculture in his book, “ Making Your Small Farm Profitable.”

5 -Patricia Allen, Agricultural Issues Analyst
“Sustainable Agriculture cannot be simply about environment - it must address human values and social relations”. Patricia Allen, assistant director, UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and an agricultural issues analyst for many years, always brings to the focus the importance of the social context of agricultural sustainability. -Patricia Allen, Agricultural Issues Analyst Sustainable Small Acreage Farming & Ranching

6 Description or definition:
Providing a more profitable farm income Promoting environmental stewardship Promoting stable, prosperous farm families and communities A simple definition that applies to what we will study for the purpose of this class looks at an agricultural system from the economic, environmental and social side.

7 Three Aspects of Agricultural Sustainability
Economic factors Environmental concerns Social issues We should consider all three aspects in order to assess sustainability at the farm level AND to understand the concept of sustainability.

8 Environment Social Economics
The typical or standard definition of sustainability refers to three aspects – the environmental, economic and social. We are not looking at these as separate pieces but the interconnection and or intersection of these - all of these have to be part of a sustainable system . How these three aspects are integrated in the field are varied. There are numerous practices farmer can use to increase the likelihood of his sustainability.

9 Goal 1: Promoting environmental stewardship – Examples:
Improving soil quality Reducing dependence on non-renewable resources Minimizing adverse impacts on safety, wildlife, water, natural resources Some examples of what farmers work on to promote environmental stewardship.

10 Goal 2: Promoting stable, prosperous farm families and communities – Examples:
Keen attention to health and safety of family and farm workers Establish a community connection Purchasing local products, inputs, and equipment Working for farmland preservation Here are several examples of ways farmers promote healthy families and strong rural communities.

11 Goal 3: Providing a more profitable farm income – Examples:
Reduce expenses – inputs like fertilizers, etc. Diversify so you have a broader product base Capture more of the consumer dollar for your product Increase the “value” of your products Farmers can increase their chance for more farm profit in several ways; some examples are listed here.

12 Elements of Sustainability
from SAN publication , “Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture” Some of the major ways farmers implement the principles of sustainability into their farm practices include the following from the publication “Exploring Sustainability of Agriculture.” 1 = IPM - minimizes economic, health and environmental risks. 2 = Rotational Grazing (out of barn into pastures to provide high quality forage, reduced fee costs while avoiding manure buildup) 3 = soil conservation - (minimum, reduced or no-till, strip cropping) 4 = Water quality / wetlands (preserve water quality and use water as filter for nutrients and pesticides) 5 = cover crops (weed suppression, erosion control and improved soil nutrients and quality) 6 = crop and landscape diversity (reduces risk, increase population of beneficial insects and wildlife habitat) 7 = nutrient management (increased use of on farm resources - manure , compost, leguminous cover crops) 8 = Agroforestry (interplanting trees with crops or pasture, riparian buffer strips) 9 = Alternative marketing (innovative direct marketing strategies can improve profits).

13 Elements of Sustainability
IPM Rotational Grazing Soil conservation Water quality / wetlands Cover crops Crop and landscape diversity Nutrient management Agroforestry Alternative markets

14 Looking at these 9 elements can help a farm towards a more sustainable agriculture. Each farm uses different tools in different ways and to varying degrees.

15 Farmers promote sustainability by:
Implementing a variety of tools or practices Decisions and ability to implement practices depend on, or are influenced by, the whole farming system The degree to which the tools are implemented can lead to variations as to how sustainable the farm might be Each farmer implements those tools that fit his system and are adaptable to the situation within a certain costs and benefits consideration. Most sustainable thinking farmers are looking at their farming system as a whole, the ecology of the region and their communities when making decisions of implementing practices and to what degree.

16 Sustainable agriculture is a continuum
Less sustainable thinking More sustainable thinking In his book Sustainable Vegetable Production from Startup to Market, Vern Grubinger has a unique way of describing sustainability as a continuum that producers gradually progress towards as they adopt new ways of thinking and new farm practices. Here he applies it to the way farmers think about the farm as financial and natural resource assets. Get through this year Next few years make or break Pass farm to kids Stewardship for many generations

17 Insect Management Less sustainable practice More sustainable practice
Calendar spray insecticides (on a pre-determined schedule) Scout for insect pests, then spray non-selective insecticide Scout for insect pests, then spray selective, least- toxic pesticide Use cultural practices and beneficial insects to control pests An example of the progression of stages in adoption of Insect management strategies.

18 Crop Rotation Less sustainable practice More sustainable practice
Monoculture (same crop in same field each year) Two years between the same crop planted in the same field Three years between crops planted in the same field Four years between the same crop planted in the same field Crop rotation adoption reflects degrees of sustainability.

19 Weed management Less sustainable practice More sustainable practice
Apply herbicides as primary weed control Apply reduced rates of herbicide and cultivate Cultivate to remove weeds Use allelopathy, smother crops, and mulches to suppress weeds Weed management practices as approached from less to more sustainable.

20 Organic Matter Maintenance
Less sustainable practice More sustainable practice Add crop residues only to the soil Add animal manures plus crop residues Add cover crops, animal manures, plus crop residues Add compost, cover crops, plus crop residues to the soil Organic matter application in promoting sustainability by degrees.

21 Relationship to Consumer
Less sustainable practice More sustainable practice Producer is unknown to consumer Consumer has loyalty to grower brand Consumer contact with grower at direct markets Consumer commitment to farm through practices such as community supported agriculture Sustainability is more easily obtained as we get closer to the grower- consumer connection.

22 Agriculture Sustainability is a continuum
In summary... Agriculture Sustainability is a continuum So as a summary, sustainable ag is a continuum It is always changing and evolving with time it encompasses agriculture at the economic, environmental and social level and is site specific to each farm and farming system. Three components are environment, economics and social Site specific to each farm and farming system

23 Sustainability in Ag - Summary
Economic, environmental and social factors are all important Sustainability is site specific but some indicators of sustainability have been established. Sustainability is based on a set of progressive steps towards a long term goal.

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