What is Sustainable Agriculture?


Sustainable agriculture can be defined in many ways, but ultimately it seeks to sustain farmers, resources and communities by promoting farming practices and methods that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities. Sustainable agriculture fits into and complements modern agriculture. It rewards the true values of producers and their products. It draws and learns from organic farming. It works on farms and ranches large and small, harnessing new technologies and renewing the best practices of the past.

Sustainable agriculture defined

In short Sustainable Agriculture is:

  • Economically Viable: If it is not profitable, it is not sustainable.
  • Socially Supportive: The quality of life of farmers, farm families and farm communities is important.
  • Ecologically Sound. We must preserve the resource base that sustains us all.

Beyond the Congressional definition, sustainable agriculture has been defined in several ways, for example, as a system that can indefinitely sustain itself without degrading the land, the environment or the people. It reflects our concern with the long-term viability of agriculture.

Dr. John E. Ikerd, Extension Professor at the University of Missouri, offers his view of sustainability: "A sustainable agriculture must be economically viable, socially responsible and ecologically sound. The economic, social and ecological are interrelated, and all are essential to sustainability. An agriculture that uses up or degrades its natural resource base, or pollutes the natural environment, eventually will lose its ability to produce. It's not sustainable. An agriculture that isn't profitable, at least over time, will not allow its farmers to stay in business. It's not sustainable. An agriculture that fails to meet the needs of society, as producers and citizens as well as consumers, will not be sustained by society. It's not sustainable. A sustainable agriculture must be all three - ecologically sound, economically viable and socially responsible. And the three must be in harmony."

However it is defined, sustainable agriculture will affect how you operate your farm or ranch.