Dateline: 2 June 2008
Updated: 26 April 2013
I have been reading the book Food, Farming, and Faith by Gary W. Fick, a Cornell University professor. Chapter Twelve of the book is titled, Agricultural Sustainability. Citing the results of two different studies, professor Fick presents eight elements that define agricultural sustainability. They are as follows:
1. Relative independence from industrial and technological inputs.
2. Decentralized or more local production and management.
3. Community as opposed to a competitive orientation.
4. Harmony with nature instead of control.
5. Diversity instead of specialization of enterprises on individual farms.
6. Restraint reflected through consideration of environmental and social costs and cautious application of new technologies.
7. Quality of family life.
8. Spirituality as motivation for the way they approach farming.
Regarding element #8, Fick writes:
Many of the writings of Wendell Berry (cited elsewhere) have clear themes related to values or religion. Fellow agronomist Roger Elmore wrote an article about the interplay of religious worldviews and the processes of agricultural sustainability. He concluded that the moral or religious aspect of agriculture is very important but largely ignored in many of the secular models of agricultural development. This is confirmation that the spiritual component often has not been acknowledged.
In other words, a person's worldview (their fundamental beliefs about what is right and wrong and which motivate their actions)is an integral part of their attitudes about what is the right and wrong way to farm. So, people who have a sincere concern for sustainable agriculture are motivated by their religious beliefs. That certainly applies to me.
I think those eight elements that define sustainable agriculture are worth giving a lot of thought to. You will notice that they are pretty much the exact opposite of the elements of industrial farming. The two just don't fit together.