It may seem simple to define sustainable agriculture, but ask two people what it is, and you’ll probably get two different answers. Many of the various perspectives have similarities, but each approaches the subject from a slightly different angle. Here are three of the most common viewpoints.
One common view is that sustainable agriculture is about using farming practices that protect the environment. This type of approach often focuses on:
- Avoiding the use of potentially harmful chemicals.
- Raising livestock humanely.
- Creating diverse habitats for wildlife.
- Conserving natural resources such as fuel, soil, and water.
Sustainability in an environment-focused system comes from keeping nature’s many cycles unbroken.
A second approach to sustainable agriculture stems from concern over the decline of small communities in recent years. As people move out of rural areas, towns die. Therefore, some sustainable producers take their role in community health very seriously. They seek to keep their small towns alive by:
- Supporting local businesses.
- Drawing potential customers to the community.
- Providing employment in their area.
A final definition of sustainable agriculture focuses more on the farmer and his family. Proponents of this view feel that farmers should be able to make a profit on what they sell and enjoy the fruit of their toil. But this is not all. A key feature of this angle of sustainable agriculture is its emphasis on ensuring that the next generation will have an incentive to carry on with the farm. The goals of this approach are:
- Improving the margin of farm-based businesses.
- Providing an enjoyable lifestyle for the whole family.
- Employing any family members who want to work on the farm.
The Whole-Farm Approach
Many successful sustainable farms have chosen to combine all three perspectives into a more rounded view of sustainable agriculture. They recognize their farm as a whole, and they treat it that way.
One of the best things about approaching sustainable agriculture in this manner is that it gives the producer a chance to think for himself, to pick and choose the practices that line up with his beliefs and create a unique enterprise. There are as many different ways to farm as there are farmers. Why should we all approach things the same way?
By creating a farm that fulfills his life purpose, the farmer will able to find deep satisfaction in his work, knowing that he is on the path his Creator laid out for him. This will ensure that his work is eternally valuable, thus achieving the ultimate in sustainability. Because that life purpose is guaranteed to include service to others, the farmer will also have a profound impact for the better on both his family and his community. Furthermore, because he is called to be a good steward of his possessions, he will manage the environment wisely, but without magnifying it beyond its proper perspective.
What more could we ask? This type of sustainable farm is something we all could benefit from. Let’s do it!
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