Sustainable farming, or sustainable agriculture, is an integrated system of plant and animal production practices that help meet the needs of people today and tomorrow. It aims to produce food, fiber, and other agricultural products in an environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially responsible way. The goal is to maintain or improve the health of natural resources, ecosystems, and communities while still producing nutritious, high-quality food.
Following are some of the best practices and methods of sustainable farming.
Environmentally Friendly Practices
For a farm to be environmentally friendly, it should protect and conserve natural resources, minimize negative environmental impacts, and promote biodiversity.
Sustainable farming practices prioritize the conservation of soil, water, and energy while minimizing waste and pollution. Techniques like crop rotation, cover crops, and no-till or reduced-till farming help to conserve soil health and fertility.
Every plant and animal serves a distinct purpose and is integral to the balance of our ecosystem. Sustainable agriculture protects habitats, plants diverse crops, and integrates livestock.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM uses various techniques to manage pests, diseases, and weeds. It’s typically a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods. By using a variety of methods, it reduces reliance on chemicals alone.
Nutrient pollution can harm public health, the environment, and the economy. So, where does nutrient pollution come from? One source is fertilizer, which often contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Agriculture is actually one of the biggest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, carefully treated and monitored fertilizers made from domestic septage and sewage sludge (biosolids) can help improve and maintain productive soil and plant growth, the EPA adds.
Plants, animals, people, and the environment are all intertwined. Agroecology is the study and practice of optimizing those relationships. It entails understanding how nature works and utilizing that knowledge to create farming practices that mimic natural ecosystems, promote biodiversity, and minimize negative environmental impacts.
For example, grazing animals rest under the shade of a tree, while their manure enriches the soil. Sustainable practices that fall under agroecology include intercropping (growing two or more crops in close proximity), agroforestry (the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems), and permaculture (integrates land, resources, people, and the environment).
Sustainable farming must be economically viable for farmers, providing them with a stable income and a certain standard of living. This can be achieved by adopting practices that reduce input costs, increase yields, and add value to products through marketing and processing. For instance, intercropping allows farmers to grow multiple crops in the same field, helping diversify their income source and safeguarding against market fluctuations, crop failures, or pests and diseases affecting one particular crop.
One of the most important aspects of sustainable agriculture isn’t the product — it’s the people. Fairness, equity, and respect for farm workers and the greater community are vital to sustainable farming. This includes fair wages, safe working conditions, and education and training opportunities.
Operating a farm can be physically and mentally demanding. As such, it’s also vital that farm owners and employees have access to affordable health care and mental health services, according to Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. It can also be an isolating job. To establish a greater sense of community and develop important industry relationships, farmers might join civic organizations that influence agriculture or connect them with consumers and other producers.
By implementing these principles, sustainable farming aims to strike a balance between agricultural productivity, environmental protection, and social well-being, ensuring a more resilient and sustainable food system today and for many generations to come.
Adopting Sustainable Practices
Need help adopting and implementing sustainable practices at your farm?
A full-service brokerage firm, SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler offers land management services to absentee owners, investor groups, or landowners who need assistance managing large acreage tracts. This includes maintenance of the land, coordinating ag exemptions, cattle, and more. We work closely with landowners to help them accomplish their long-term goals and objectives.
After assessing your land, SVN can also help you determine if it meets the Greenbelt Agricultural Tax Assessment criteria, a provision allowing land to be taxed at its agricultural use value rather than its fair market value as long as the land is used for agriculture purposes.
We’ll also share insights with you about other conservation-effective and income-producing programs, such as CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), a conservation reserve for soil, water, and related natural resources, and EQUIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), a program that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality.
To learn more about how SVN can help, call 877.518.5263.