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Sustainable ag uses age-old tools

by 5m Editor
6 March 2007, at 10:34am

US - If you are confused about the term "sustainable agriculture" don't be surprised. It is likely that the vast majority of California's 80,000 farmers don't understand it either.

Its origin is difficult to trace, and most farmers are convinced it wasn't created within agriculture. Often, they regard it as an outsider's word picture of what agriculture and farming ought to be, not necessarily what it is or ever will be.

Other farmers have asked: "If agriculture isn't sustainable already, how have we managed to produce and prosper for generations"

Actually, a deep skepticism if not suspicion of the term and those who use it is present in California agriculture's psyche. Many regard it as a convenient buzz word often repeated by "wannabe" farmers and idealists who want to engineer (control) agriculture as well as the rest of society.

A paper from the University of California indicates that the term covers agriculture that takes into account environmental quality, resource use and social equity, whatever that is.

Maintaining focus on social equity is difficult when insect pressures are mounting, frost is threatening the year's crop of citrus as it hangs on the trees, cattle are being rounded up in rough terrain or a dairy cow is experiencing complications as she calves at 2 a.m.

Despite the widespread skepticism of the term and its proponents, some farmers have embraced it as they would a shade tree and a cool drink on a hot day. The almond industry has been especially diligent in trying to learn what "sustainable" really means and how it might apply to its members' operations.

Growers of some other California crops are adjusting their practices to conform to their own interpretations of sustainable, a number of them confirmed adherents of organic methods. Some believe that identifying their practices as sustainable will automatically make their crops more marketable.

Source: Visalia Times-Daily

5m Editor