Kellie Blair

Sustainability

Farmer and agronomist Kellie Blair works to make agriculture more sustainable every day – on her own farm and as the Watershed Coordinator for the Boone River Watershed. In this video, Kellie discusses sustainability on her farm and why sustainability is so important to farmers.

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What Is Sustainability?

The U.S. Congress defines the term “sustainable agriculture” as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices 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.1
  1. http://afsic.nal.usda.gov/sustainable-agriculture-definitions-and-terms-1#toc2

Is Sustainability a New Idea?

Sustainability has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, but farmers have long been acting as stewards of the land, passing that legacy down from generation to generation. That’s because, as our world population continues to rise, farmers have to learn to grow more food with less water, energy and other resources.

What Does Sustainable Farming Look Like?

Farmers across the country raise their crops on different types of land and in varying climates, so sustainability looks different on every farm. There are, however, common sets of practices that farmers use to conserve natural resources.

For example, many farmers perform crop rotation, the practice of planting different crops in a planned sequence in each field. Among other benefits, this improves soil health and helps to control weeds and pests, reducing farmers’ needs for herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Farmers using biotechnology (GMO crops) have reduced carbon-dioxide emissions by 28 billion kg – an amount equal to removing 12.4 million cars from the road for an entire year. 1

Terraces and reduced tillage help farmers reduce soil erosion and runoff, and keep water in the soil for plants to use.2 Farmers even participate in conservation programs that remove environmentally sensitive land from agriculture production to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. 3

  1. http://isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/49/executivesummary/default.asp
  2. http://nifa.usda.gov/program/sustainable-agriculture-program
  3. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=conservation