April 13, 2014

Farmers strive for sustainability

Is your farm sustainable?

As data finally starts to trickle forth from the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, it appears that New York farmers’ average age has increased and total farm numbers have decreased in the past five years. This report states that New York farms now total 35,538, down 2 percent from 2007.

And while the preliminary report does not yet release county-level statistics, it does show that the largest farms are getting bigger and that New York farms continue to increase production and sales of both crops and livestock. While Clinton County has lost a number of farms in the past year, cropland values have risen considerably and much of the cropland continues to be utilized by other farmers.

Expansion and consolidation continues to be a statewide trend that is true locally as well. As farms grow, their goal is to succeed and keep the farm sustainable.

“Sustainability” is a term that has recently been tacked onto a variety of activities. It is often used in the same sentence as “holistic.” Both terms are often difficult to define and hard to understand.

“Sustainable agriculture” has been defined by Congress as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term, satisfy our food and fiber needs, improve the quality of our natural resources, make efficient use of nonrenewable and on-farm resources, sustain farm operations and enhance the quality of life of farmers and society.

One key point is that sustainable farming is economically viable. If farmers can’t make a profit, farming is not sustainable. The whole point of the sustainable farming is to maintain a long-term enterprise beneficial to the farm, the farm family and the community at large.

Farms that can successfully adapt to changing economic times, adopt new management practices to better care for the land and the environment, and continue to make efficient use of their resources will benefit the community as a whole with wholesome food, beautiful open spaces and preservation of our natural resources.

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