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Sustainability / Sustainable Farming: What it is and Why it Matters

Sustainable Agriculture

As our world continues to develop and industrialize, there have been more and more demands for sustainability and environmental justice. One area in particular need of sustainable action is the farming industry, but what exactly is sustainable agriculture? Although there are a myriad of definitions, agriculture can be considered sustainable if it contains three key components: it is environmentally safe, economically viable, and socially just.

Over time, industrial agriculture, a more mechanized form of farming, has grown exponentially in the United States. Although industrial agriculture can produce high quantities of products at low costs, it does so at the expense of the environment. Soil degradation and pollution are two of the many harmful consequences produced by industrial agriculture. Contrarily, sustainable agriculture promotes agricultural reforms that come with little or no cost to the environment.

Sustainable farmers, and farmers in general, are an integral and important part of society today simply because without farms we would not have food. Sustainable agriculture is thus necessary in the world today if we want to feed our growing population and be able to do so for years to come. Healthy, nutritious food is a necessity, and such food can be produced without threatening the natural environment.

Traditional agricultural practices are often harmful to the environment because they result in disastrous consequences such as nutrient deficiencies in the soil, which prevents future farming, and the loss of important wildlife as forests are converted into expansive and inefficient farming grounds. Much of modern farming, especially in countries like the US, is more focused on making money and increasing profits than producing healthy food for people to consume. Sustainable farmers work to fight these issues by implementing agricultural practices that grow produce without threatening the safety or health of the environment, plants, animals, or people. 

Some of the main challenges in promoting sustainability are convincing farmers to switch from traditional agricultural methods to sustainable practices, overcoming communication barriers, and adequately instructing people on how to properly maintain sustainable systems. Many farmers have been accustomed to farming a certain way for a long time, so it is difficult, as a result, to convince such farmers to change their way of doing things. Because of this understandable resistance to change, it is incredibly important for sustainable farmers to be able to communicate the benefits and advantages of sustainable agriculture and thus be informed enough about sustainable farming to do so.

In order to communicate knowledge effectively, people must be able to communicate effectively. Certain sustainable practices are straightforward, such as water conservation and composting, while others may be more difficult to explain, specifically those that require more technology such as solar panels or wind turbines. Farmers who want to spread the use of sustainable practices must fully understand the practices so that other farmers will adequately comprehend them.

Sustainable farming is additionally beneficial because it yields raw, healthy crops without the use of dangerous pesticides or inorganic fertilizers. Industrial farming commonly employs pesticides as a means of producing pest-free crops. However, the use of pesticides has historically shown harmful effects on human health. It is estimated that pesticides cause 10,000 deaths and two million poisonings every year according to the United Nations. Some pesticides can also cause various cancers and produce long term effects such as increased risk for cancer and various complications to major body systems.

The processing of foods by industrial farms also poses detrimental health effects such as pollution, decreased antibiotic effectiveness, presence of mutated pathogens arising from food, and new allergens that may be harmful to the immune system. Hydroponics, Aquaponics, and Bioponics, contrarily, avoid all of these issues as they do not require the use of pesticides or fertilizers and do not involve the processing of food.

In fact, the use of such pesticides can threaten the stability of some systems as they may include chemicals that are toxic to the fish within the system. Consequently, these systems function more effectively without the use of pesticides that could potentially harm the organisms within the system. Fertilizers are considered nonessential to Aquaponics, Bioponics, and Hydroponics because all of the nutrients needed by the plants for growth are sufficiently provided in the water due to cycling and the added nutrient solutions. Food processing is also absent from these systems as they generally produce only organic fruits and vegetables that do not require such processing. Hence, they successfully avoid the major negative hazards produced by industrial farming because these systems can produce crops without the use of dangerous chemical fertilizers or pesticides. 

The techniques involved in typical sustainable farming pose little to no environmental dangers and can offer a variety of benefits to the environment. Typical industrial farming contributes largely to the world’s pollution, thus also affecting climate change, and the degradation and depletion of soil and its naturally occurring nutrients. Because of this, methods of sustainable agriculture are becoming necessary as advantageous means of providing crops. For example, Aquaponics, Bioponics, and Hydroponic Gardens do not contribute to soil degradation or nutrient depletion in any way. All of the water in the systems is cycled through the system, and water changes are limited when needed. Consequently, stable systems do not require excessive amounts of water input and do not release harmful water into the environment. 

The products of Hydroponics, Bioponics, and Aquaponics can be produced without considerable inputs from the external environment. This is a benefit to the environment in comparison to other forms of farming that are highly resource-intensive and produce large quantities of pollution. These systems can additionally be utilized on both large and small scale farming, ranging from large greenhouses to even smaller systems you can use in your own home! Sustainable farming is, therefore, an applicable alternative to industrial farming that functions without consuming and destroying the world’s resources.

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