Are you sick of hearing the word ‘sustainability’ yet?
It seems like everywhere you go has its own twist on the term – especially when it comes to food. Restaurant chains, grocery stores and even delivery services have made it their mission to be sustainable.
As farmers and agriculturists, we should be excited to talk about the s-word because it starts with us on the farm.
As the first step in the food supply chain, we have our own sustainability definitions and goals. Take a look at these popular buzzwords in agriculture and think about how you can use them to share your story.
Using our resources wisely without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.
The definition of sustainability is relative to the farm, commodity or business using the term. Sustainability looks different on a dairy farm compared with a grain farm or an agriculture educator compared with a service technician, but we have a common goal of making a responsible impact. When you are talking about sustainability and how it impacts your life and farm, own the definition and make it personal. Share specific examples of what you are doing to protect the future of agriculture.
A system of farming practices that rehabilitates the soil and enhances the entire ecosystem.
If you are wondering if you can use the word ‘regenerative’ to describe your farming practices, think of the five soil health principles – cover the soil, minimize soil disturbance, increase diversity, maintain a living plant and root system and integrate livestock. These practices quickly rebuild soil health and sequester carbon.
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to sustainability – enhancing soil health enhances the health of the entire ecosystem surrounding the farm. Supporting soil health also supports wildlife and pollinators. Regenerative practices are excellent examples of sustainability.
Using resources responsibly with the best land management and animal husbandry practices.
Sustainability and efficiency go hand-in-hand. Advanced technology helps farmers be more efficient. Some examples of efficient resources that farmers use include precision planting and application, automated milking equipment and GPS software. Beyond automation, farmers use advanced plant breeding and animal genetics to help their crops and animals reach their highest potential. Greater efficiency leads to lower inputs and higher overall productivity.
Protecting and preserving our livelihood while providing for our families, employees and communities.
A farm needs to generate income in order to be successful. Driving a profit allows farmers to invest in the health and safety of their animals, employees and families. Farming is a way of life that is not motivated by financial gain but rather the pride that comes in providing the best care for our land and animals.
When talking about profitability in agriculture, explain how your farm allows you to provide for your family and your community. Tell stories about how you go above and beyond for your employees. One in nine Wisconsin jobs are related to agriculture, farming sustains our state’s economy. Link your story to that data for a stronger impact.
Renew and Reuse:
Managing food waste and alternative energy sources to be responsible stewards for the planet.
Farmers and their livestock are excellent recyclers. Dairy and livestock farmers help to redirect food waste by feeding leftovers of human food production to their cows. Water can be reused multiple times on a farm. Farmers also can produce alternative renewable energy sources from corn, wind, sun and even cow manure. How are you creatively innovating to use every resource to maintain your bottom line and protect the environment?
How will you use these buzzwords to share your sustainability story? Each farm has a unique and impactful story to share and you can make a difference!
By Rachel Gerbitz. Originally appeared in the October | November 2022 Rural Route.