What is Sustainable Agriculture?
In simplest terms, sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.
Why buy sustainable food products?
Here are 8 great reasons why.
1. Help protect the environment.
Sustainable agriculture produces food that does not harm the environment.
On factory farms, animals excrete tons of waste every week. Millions of gallons of this untreated waste are often held in open-air lagoons and pollute the surrounding air, land and water. Industrial crop farming, including crops used for animal feed, are dependent on chemical fertilizers known to cause long-term depletion of organic matter, soil compaction and degradation of overall soil quality. Monocropping, using the land for growing only one type of crop, not only reduces the genetic diversity of plants but also makes plants more susceptible to disease, creating the potential for pests to easily destroy an entire crop. Industrial agriculture also consumes large quantities of fossil fuels due to the heavy use of synthetic fertilizer.
2. Promote personal health.
Sustainable farming focuses on raising food that is healthy for consumers.
Industrially raised food is grown with many pesticides and chemicals and is processed with additives and preservatives. These toxins have been linked to a range of diseases and disorders including infertility and birth defects, and can potentially create damage to the nervous system and cause cancer. Other factors that reduce food quality and can threaten our health include the high-stress levels of the animals kept in crowded and confined conditions, the poor quality feed they are given and the potential for cultivating and spreading disease rapidly through the large confinement facilities. Industrial food is also refrigerated and shipped from long distances, decreasing its nutritional value.
3. Promote public health.
By supporting sustainable producers, you are promoting farming practices that do not endanger public health.
Industrial agriculture involves heavy use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers that pollute the water, air and soil near industrial farms and can travel large distances causing problems such as the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Antibiotics are widely used in industrial livestock production, and there is a large body of evidence indicating that this excessive use is leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs that threaten public health.
For more information, read: How Industrial Food Impacts Your Health, Pesticides, Antibiotics, Hormones, GMOs
4. Save family farms.
By eating sustainably, you’re supporting a true American tradition — the small, independent family farmer.
Family farmers are being forced out of business at an alarming rate. The American Farmland Trust estimates that more than an acre of U.S. farmland goes into development every minute. As a result, there are nearly five million fewer farms than there were in the 1930’s. There is also a lack of young farmers: the average age of the American farmer is 55. Many small farms will cease production because farming isn’t economically feasible for the younger generation. If this continues, we will lose our food security and have to rely on industrial agriculture and more food imports from other countries.
For more information, read: Sustainable Agriculture, New Farmers, Local/Regional Food Systems
5. Promote animal welfare.
Sustainably raised animals are treated humanely and are permitted to carry out natural behaviors such as rooting in the dirt and pecking the ground.
Factory farms are large, profit-driven companies that view animals as units of production, rather than living creatures, and exchange the animals’ health and welfare for efficiency and profit. Factory-farmed animals are crammed together in unsanitary conditions where they suffer horribly and are often sick. Most never see sunlight and their feet never touch the ground. These unhealthy animals are then processed for consumption.
6. Support and protect rural communities.
Sustainable farms are an integral part of the local economy, creating new jobs and investing in the community.
Studies have shown that when factory farms enter communities they replace local farmers, causing a downturn in the local economy. They are often too large to be locally supplied and can cause a decrease in property values. In addition, the pollution from these farms endangers the health of the community and negatively impacts the local environment.
7. Empower and protect workers.
Employees on sustainable farms are paid a fair wage, treated with respect and protected from unnecessary dangers.
Workers on factory farms operate in very dangerous conditions. Manure pits on industrial farms create harmful gases such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and methane that can contaminate the air that farm laborers breathe. These laborers are often paid minimum wage and have no rights or say in their job. Migrant workers employed by industrial farms are also frequently underpaid and work long hours. Often times these workers are undocumented immigrants, and while there are laws that protect all workers regardless of immigration status equally, industrial farms take advantage of workers’ fear of deportation and forgo many safety and wage requirements.
8. It tastes better.
Sustainable food is delicious!
An added benefit of eating sustainably is that sustainably-raised food simply tastes better. Not so long ago, herbs and spices and sugar were used to enhance the flavor in our food. But in recent decades our taste buds have been corrupted through the use of cheap chemicals and corn syrup to fill that role. We’ve forgotten how wonderfully delicious fresh food tastes as we’ve become acclimated to food that’s polluted with preservatives. The more you try it, the more you’ll learn that sustainable, local food just tastes better.
Create change one forkful at a time.