Press-Republican

Columns

February 3, 2013

Sustainable agriculture a worthy goal

Is your farm sustainable?

I read a recent Department of Agriculture report that New York Farm numbers had decreased in the past year. This report states that New York farms now total about 36,000. While Clinton County has lost a number of farms in the past year, cropland values have been rising and much of the cropland continues to be utilized by other farmers. 

And while the report focuses on farm numbers, it doesn’t address the fact that overall, New York farms continue to increase production and sales of both crops and livestock. Our local farmers have continued to do the same. Continuing research and promotion of beneficial farming practices will help our local farms to succeed and remain a sustainable endeavor.

“Sustainability” is a term that has recently been tacked on to 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 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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