Q. What is Sustainable Agriculture?
A. Sustainable Agriculture integrates three main goals:
- environmental stewardship
- farm profitability
- prosperous farming communities (not attrition)
These goals have been defined by various bodies (academic, political, international) and may be looked at from the vantage point of the farmer or consumer. From Brillyant Resources’ perspective, sustainable agriculture refers to agricultural production that can be maintained without harming the environment. It means an integrated system of plant, microbe and animal production practices, having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:
- satisfy human food and fiber needs
- enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
- make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
- sustain the economic viability of farm operations
- enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole
Q. What is organic farming?
A. Organic farming is crop or stock farming, where only natural fertilizers, pesticides, and nutritional supplements are used. Hormones and synthetic chemicals are not used, at all. Organic farming, to be profitable, must include soils with enhanced biological activity, determined by the humus level, crumb structure and feeder root development, so that plants are fed through the soil ecosystem and not primarily through soluble fertilizers added to the soil.
Q. What qualifies as organic farm products?
A. Organic farm products are qualified by regulations and proper labeling. Before October 2002, states followed various rules for certifying and labeling organic products. But now, all organic foods are grown and processed according to strict national standards, set by the US Department of Agriculture. There may also be additional requirements that an organic product abides by, set forth by a state or private association. Sometimes state laws appear stricter than federal law, or the laws of other states, but this is for good reason. For example, Florida, with an abundance of silty and sandy soil is very different than clay-based regions in states such as California, Pennsylvania, NY and Ohio, resulting in these phenomena:
- Florida farmland has more percolation
- Nutrients run-off and leach more quickly
- Toxins enter the watershed and swamp areas more quickly
- Toxins also exit land more quickly
To meet these standards, organic crops must be produced without conventional pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.
Organically raised animals must be given organic feed and kept free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic farm animals must have access to the outdoors, including pastureland for grazing. If a food has a “USDA organic” label, it contains at least 95% organic ingredients, and a government-approved expert has inspected the farm where it was produced to make sure the farmer meets USDA regulation.
Q. What is a Watershed?
A. A Watershed is a basin-like landform defined by high points and ridge lines that descend into lower elevations and stream valleys. A watershed carries water that is “shed” from the land after rain falls and snow melts. Drop by drop, water is channeled into soils, groundwater, creeks, and streams, making its way to larger rivers and eventually to the sea. Water is a universal solvent, affected by all that it comes in contact with: the land it traverses, and the soils through which it travels. The reality facing watersheds is quite simple: what we do on the land affects water quality for all communities living downstream.
Q. What is sustainability?
A. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, stewardship of both natural and human resources is of prime importance. Stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of laborers, the needs of rural communities and consumer health, and safety both in the present and in the future. Stewardship of land and natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term.
Sustainability is also the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans, it is the potential for long-term maintenance of well-being, which in turn depends on the well-being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.
Sustainability has become a wide-ranging term that can be applied to almost every facet of life on Earth, from local to a global scale and over various time periods. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. Invisible chemical cycles redistribute water, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon through the worlds living and non-living systems, and have sustained life for millions of years. As the earth’s human population has increased exponentially, natural ecosystems have declined and changes in the balance of natural cycles have had a negative impact on both humans and other living systems. We believe that microbiology, as well as other advanced technologies, can help ease the burden that humanity is laying upon the land.
Oftentimes, foul odors and inhospitable bacteria, are merely a reflection of the damage that has been done. And the unfavorable signals that we sense are usually the living organisms that are feeding and receiving energy from that toxic element, usually acting to convert to something more suitable to human life.
Sustainability is clearly defined when discussing environmental impact scientifically, but sometimes, because the term is also used in business and financial rhetoric, a sustainable business can harm its environment, depending on how the term is interpreted by stakeholders.
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