Change happens whether we want it to or not. Sometimes change can be for the better (ex: Having a healthy baby join the family), or change can be rough (ex: Having a bad hair cut/perm). Regardless of the type of change we have each experienced, the type of change that occurs with improved technology not only makes us work smarter and not harder, but helps us to make decisions that will keep the environment bountiful for years to come.
Sustainability, something you have probably heard of but might not know much about. Sustainability is defined as: the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. So….what does that mean, especially in the sense of sustainable agriculture? Sustainable agriculture describes farming systems that are “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely.” Sustainable agriculture takes on many forms with the most prominent form being food production.
With the rise in food production (ex: Strawberries are not in season yet, you can still find them at your local grocery store) comes changes in the ecological and social price of obtaining this food. To combat this, sustainable agricultural practices are being embraces. Sustainable farming practices mimic natural ecological processes where farmers minimize tilling and water use; encourage healthy soil by planting fields with different crops year after year and integrating livestock grazing practices.
A great example of sustainable agriculture is the dairy industry. According to Cornell University, the dairy industry has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 60 percent between 1944 and 2007. This example of sustainability was due to improved cow nutrition, cow comfort, quality of the animals, and other technology improvements. In fact, by decreasing their carbon footprints dairy farmers today are producing almost 3 times more milk with about half the number of cows.
In knowing that farmers need to help feed the world of 9 billion people by 2050, try not to only learn about where your food comes from but ask a farmer about their farming practices. Better yet, visit a farm near you to get inspired!