“If there is to be an ecologically sound society, it will have to come from the grass roots up, not from the top down.” - Paul Hawken

Aquinas College

Sustainable Agriculture

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Strip Cropping
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Due to the fact that over 7 billion people need food to survive, agriculture is a very critical resource issue. Unfortunately, current agricultural practices (in conjunction with population growth rates) doom future generations to contamination, lack of fresh water, unproductive soil and ultimately starvation. Common practices introduce toxic chemicals into the environment, irrigate with dwindling freshwater resources, and erode our once fertile top soil at an alarming rate. It is safe to say that we cannot continue down this path if we are to feed ourselves in the coming centuries.

Sustainable agriculture is comprised of a system that provides a reasonable yield of food while protecting environmental quality, community social welfare, and farmer livelihood. Generally, chemical pesticides or fertilizers are not required, irrigation water is obtained from precipitation, and crop diversity is encouraged rather than the conventional monoculture crop of modern agriculture. Instead of highly mechanized till-farming where topsoil is disturbed every season, sustainable agriculture encourages no-till farming to protect valuable soil fertility. Crops are rotated frequently and mixed throughout smaller fields to encourage natural pest resistance. With sustainable agriculture, our environment is protected and the land will remain healthy and productive for future generations.

The health of farmers and the community are also protected within such a system. Crops are kept local and sold at venues such as farmers markets, where farmers retain more of the profits from the sale of their harvests. Because organic farming operations are more labor intensive, more people are required to work the land. The system typically requires 2.5 times more labor than conventional farming, but it yields 10 times the profit with a rise in crop yields and the elimination of the need to purchase expensive chemicals (Michigan Land Use Institute). With today's high unemployment levels, this system makes sense solely from an economic perspective. Sustainable farming encourages a livable wage for the people who provide us with a vital staple of life. It is obvious that our agricultural system has a long way to go before achieving sustainability. However, we can start today by supporting the roots of our local economies. We can be conscious in our decisions by putting our dollars not only toward organics, but locally produced organics. Even though it's not feasible to purchase all locally produced organic food today, the movement to once again be part of community-supported agriculture is taking hold. Please join in.

"A sustainable agriculture is one that depletes neither the people nor the land." ~Wendell Berry, 1984

Categories

Links

"Evaluating the Potential Contribution of Organic Agriculture to Sustainability Goals"- The United Nations

The thoughts advanced in this paper are based on existing data and information on organic agriculture in developing countries which are, as many would expect, rather scarce. More focused statements would need extensive field research. This paper has therefore attempted to offer a conceptual framework that could be used for evaluating the sustainability and productivity of existing or potential organic agriculture systems, under different bio-physical and socio-political settings.

Beyond Pesticides

Formerly known as the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, Beyond Pesticides works with their allies in protecting public health and the environment with the goal of transitioning to a world free of toxic pesticides.

This site offers general information on human and environmental health issues linked to toxic pesticide use, as well as access to resources like current news and publications and a guide to non-toxic pest management strategies for your home and garden. Click here to find out more!

Certified organic cow shares available through Green Pastures

Green Pastures, LLC, a program of the Grassfields farm in Coopersville Michigan, now offers cow shares to local residents. Purchasers of the cow shares are able to pick up fresh (organic) milk every week from Grassfields Farm. Natural cheeses, beef, poultry, and eggs are also available for purchase from the farm. For more information, contact Jesse and Betsy Meerman at 616.997.1306 or migreenpastures@gmail.com.

Doorganics

At Doorganics, our mission is simple: to deliver the freshest food possible from local and sustainable farms, right to your doorstep. During Michigan's prime growing season, all the food in your bin will come direct from area farmers. We use these same farms whenever possible all year round and even when there's snow on the ground, you'll get locally grown greens and veggies directly from West Michigan greenhouses.

Eat Well Guide

A project of Sustainable Table, the Eat Well Guide allows users to enter their zipcode and find local farms, stores, and restaurants selling humanely-raised animal products and organic produce.

Farms Without Harm

Farms without Harm is a network of concerned citizens and groups promoting safe, sustainable farming in Michigan. It educates the public through speakers, workshops and other programs. Check out their web site for upcoming events and meeting information. To contact the organization, send an e-mail to fwh@ameritech.net.

Food Alliance Midwest

The Alliance includes farmers, processors, distributors, grocery stores, and consumers in the Midwest region who promote sustainable agriculture techniques and products. The organization provides certifications to farms/ranches and food handlers who provide food to society that is humanely produced and environmentally responsible.

FoodRoutes

The Local Harvest community level map on this site allows users to enter a city or zip code to find sustainable farmers, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture projects (CSAs) in their area!

FRESH: A Guide for Local Food

This site is managed by the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, an organization working to build a sustainable food system in West Michigan. The web site provides a wide variety of information on local agriculture and other food systems, upcoming news and events, and the 2005 guide to local food. The guide contains an excellent table showing when particular foods are in-season in Michigan. If they are not on this list for a particular month and yet you can still buy them, they were grown in another state (or even country!) and transported here. Support local agriculture by purchasing in-season fruits and vegetables.

GRACE Factory Farm Project

The GRACE Project is working hard to educate consumers on the problems associated with factory farms and promote the use of sustainable farming operations. The site contains news, information on factory farms/CAFO's, press releases, photo galleries, and many other resources.

Growing Power

Growing Power is "a nationally recognized leader in urban agriculture, which provides hands-on training and technical support for community projects". Located in Milwaukee and Chicago, the organization hosts workshops and demonstrations for aquaculture, aquaponics, vermiculture, horticulture, small or large-scale composting, soil reclamation, food distribution, bee-keeping, and marketing. Check out their web site for information on upcoming workshops, collaborative projects, selected articles, and other useful information.

Local Harvest

Local Harvest features a national database of organic establishments and an online store to buys seeds, crafts, soaps, and other products. The site allows consumers to search regionally for restaurants serving local organic food, farmers markets, family farms and CSA's, and grocery stores with local, organic, and humanely raised meat and dairy products.

Shared Earth

This website helps to form partnerships and connections between land owners and individual gardeners. Gardeners and green thumbs without land can now conveniently connect with participating landowners in their area through this website. Individuals without land now have the opportunity to grow their own food. The whole underlying concept of this website is to build a “Trusting community that yields the efficient use of land and a greener planet.”

Stonyfield Yogurt

Located in Londonderry, New Hampshire, Stonyfield Farm is committed to keeping artificial ingredients out of their food products. They use only pure, all natural and organic ingredients; and never any preservatives or artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. They also use premium milk from farmers who have pledged not to use the synthetic bovine growth hormone, antibiotics, synthetic hormones or toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Click here to learn more about Stony Field Farm's sustainable products and initiatives.

Sustainable Table

Sustainable Table provides information to promote healthy eating habits in America, including sections devoted to the concept of sustainability, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable school lunches and education. This is a very useful resource to the consumer who wants to learn how to make smart choices at the grocery store.

Sweetwater Local Foods Market

The Sweetwater Local Foods Market is "Michigan's first farmers market to exclusively sell certified organic/organically grown fruits and vegetables and meats, eggs, and cheese from humanely raised animals".

West Michigan Cooperative

The West Michigan Cooperative (WMC) is the region's first-ever online farmers market, brought to you by Farms without Harm, the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, DeLeeuw Digital, LLC and Media Rare. The WMC serves as a way for local farmers and consumers to stay connected all year long.

Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo courtesy of Bigfoto
Site by CMC/GrandNet