With an expected population of 9.8 billion by the year 2050 and nearly 2 billion more mouths to feed, agriculture remains a vital industry. However, with the many challenges the agriculture industry faces every day, and the environmental footprint the industry leaves, there is an upmost importance for sustainability.
Sustainable agriculture is defined as “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.” In order to practice sustainable farming you should have an understanding of ecosystem services as well as the relationship between organisms and their environment. Essentially, sustainable farming is all about finding a balance between meeting the needs of today, without compromising the ability of future generations. Although there are hundreds of benefits to practicing sustainable farming, they can be narrowed down to three categories: environmental, economical, and social. Many successful farmers can attribute their success to sustainable practices. The farmers of our nation have developed, performed and perfected these methods over time, allowing our industry to thrive.
For the environment
When it comes to environmental aspects, sustainable agriculture has a tremendous impact. Because agricultural and farming practices have a large impact on the Earth it is important that we seek ways to minimize its effects. This method is crucial for preserving the land for generations to come. Sustainable agriculture helps to restore the land as well as other natural resources such as water and air. This ensures that these natural resources will be available for the future. Crop rotation, soil enrichment, and covering crops to prevent soil erosion are all excellent examples of sustainable agriculture techniques that benefit the environment.
Hilda Castillo and her husband Fidel are first generation immigrant farmers whose operation hosts over 100 acres and grow everything from strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon to peppers, squash, pickles and eggplant. Castillo Family Farms works with UF/IFAS in the spirit of environmental consciousness. As stewards of the land, Castillo Farms allows the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to utilize land samples for soil and water research. Providing this research is invaluable to the industry and contributes greatly to the environment. The Castillo’s commitment to sustainable practices ensures that they will be able to share the legacy of their operation with their children, who they are very proud of.
For the economy
Since agriculture is the backbone of our economic system and employs nearly 800,000 of the people in our nation, it’s important that it remains in good standing. Achieving a sustainable food system can lead to bigger crop yields and an abundant food supply. A decrease in the world’s access to food would be detrimental to our economy. An example of sustainable agriculture that contributes to the economy is integrated pest management (IMP). There has always been a concern regarding the negative effects of pesticides, which is why the application of integrated pest management was created. By using IPM, farmers can reduce their cost associated with pesticide application by using more effective approaches. By providing jobs and an abundant, local food supply, sustainable agriculture also allows farmers to rely less on government subsidies and strengthen their communities.
Clear Springs Enterprises understands how agriculture contributes to a strong economy, and invests in their company through strategic risk management and crop insurance policies.
Patrick Carrol, Vice President of Clear Springs Enterprises, says, “Agriculture is a volatile industry, and it’s important to maintain food sustainability in the United States. We don’t want our food supply to come from somewhere on which we cannot depend, so it’s important to invest in farming agricultural related jobs that, in turn, also bolsters our economy.”
For the community
Sustainable agriculture allows farmers to produce fruits, vegetables and other crops that are safe for consumers, protecting the public health within the community. Farmers and employees work in a safe environment, and these farmers also work tirelessly to ensure that their animals are properly cared for and treated humanely.
Wish Farms is the largest producer and shipper of strawberries in Florida. When it comes to community involvement, Wish Farms goes beyond charitable donations. They generously focus their effort on improving educational opportunities for migrant children, donating fresh product to various community groups and educating consumers, retailers and law makers. They are an excellent example to everyone they come in contact with and they are the true definition of an industry leader.