What is Sustainable Farming?
People’s awareness of the climate crisis and the growing body of evidence showing how humans are accelerating climate change both contribute to the increasing interest in sustainability. This all-encompassing concept involves not only individual lifestyle changes but also large-scale modifications through activities like sustainable farming practices.
But what is sustainable farming? What are some sustainable farming practices, and how can we benefit from those? Before answering these questions, let’s take a look at how conventional farming or agriculture affects the environment.
How Does Agriculture Affect the Environment?
If you look at industrial agriculture (including the multi-billion dollar animal agriculture industry), it has a number of features that make it unsustainable:
- The conversion of forests and other natural habitats into agricultural land has led to the decline in wildlife population sizes and species loss.
- The huge demand for cash crops, meat, animal feed, cereals and crops for biofuels has escalated land degradation.
- The routine use of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides pollutes both land and water.
- Climate change, the rise in the use of chemical inputs in agriculture and the practice of monoculture farming (growing only one type of crop at a time) all contribute to the dwindling bee population.
- Animal agriculture greatly contributes to nitrogen pollution. For example, fertilisers and cow manure are both rich in nitrogen. The nitrogen pollution resulting from these sources contributes to biodiversity loss, climate change and ozone layer depletion. In fact, animal agriculture contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainable Farming Methods — The Basics
In a broad sense, sustainable farming refers to growing food using methods that don’t cause harm to the environment, economy and society. It is the eco-friendly alternative to industrial agricultural practices that degrade the soil, pollute the land, water and air and contribute to habitat and species loss, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers who practise sustainable farming support community health and wellbeing and protect the environment. Sustainable farming is a profitable business — although farms can also be run as non-profits or recreational projects.
Sustainable farming (or sustainable agriculture in general) involves using farming practices that consider the ecological cycles. It is farming ecologically through methods and techniques that are economically viable and environmentally sound and protect public health.
It focuses on both the economic aspect of farming and the thoughtful and effective utilisation of resources, thereby contributing to the growth of nutritious and healthy food and the improvement of the living standards of the farmer.
Environmental Impacts of Sustainable Farming
Sustainable farming in Australia gives farmers the opportunity to innovate and implement recycling methods that benefit the land. For example, sustainable farming makes use of animal manure or crop waste that can be recycled into fertilisers that help enrich the soil.
Other innovative sustainable farming practices include:
- Crop rotation to help maintain and improve soil health
- Rainwater harvesting for irrigation systems
- Hydroponics and aquaponics that maximise space and resources
- Using renewable energy sources (e.g. solar panels) as alternative energy
- Integrated pest management that takes advantage of natural pest eliminators without the need to use toxic pesticides for pest control
- Practising urban agriculture and growing food forests and community gardens for self-sufficiency
Some of the positive economic, social and environmental impacts of sustainable farming include the following:
Sustainability is a powerful force for good and profit as it earns the support of like-minded individuals and institutions. People are usually ready to patronise and rally behind products that are sustainably sourced and produced.
Social and Economic Equity
Sustainable farming does not prescribe to the corporate model characteristic of industrial or conventional farming practices that are focused primarily on profit. The goal of sustainable farming is to improve the lives of producers (e.g. farmers) and society in general through the provision of high-quality, nutritious and safe food products.
Preservation of the Environment
Sustainable farming does not encroach upon natural habitats, forests, land and bodies of water. Rather, it works on restoring these to ensure equilibrium in the ecosystem.
Protection of Public Health
Mass-produced food products of industrial agriculture have led to contamination problems and outbreaks that threaten people’s health. Sustainable farming, on the other hand, is smaller in scale and focused on quality more than quantity. By focusing on quality control, sustainable farms are able to produce wholesome, nutrient-rich food that poses no harm and contributes to public health.
Thoughtful and Effective Use of Non-Renewable Factors
Non-renewable materials or resources can be useful in sustainable farming, as long as these do not pose any harm to people and the environment. For example, you can use hay tarps like the ones from Bee Jays Canvas Co. to protect hay from the elements, prevent mould growth and preserve nutrients.
Contact Bee Jays Canvas Co For Your Hay Tarp Needs
At Bee Jays Canvas Co, we manufacture bespoke heavy-duty weatherproof tarps to suit all hay sizes. Get in contact with the team to discuss your requirements!