Sustainable Farming

January 2, 2011
By ksmith BRONZE, Hanover, New Hampshire
ksmith BRONZE, Hanover, New Hampshire
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

All living things on earth have one common need. Food. The only way to survive is with the nutrients that food delivers. The earth is in desperate need of a sustainable way to feed the towering population that will only grow from here. Means of earnest changes must occur from the short-term farming that harms the land over time by converting once abundant lands to dry waste areas. Humans must move into a healthy future era. It is time to reconsider the ways of lifestyle to suit the needs of earth while not compromising the large amount of food that must be grown. Everyone must play a part in changing the harmful techniques that are being applied to produce. It is essential to mix effective farming of the past with technology of the future. Sustainable farming is the solution to major food crisis by productively using land space while preserving the nutritional value of agriculture and produce.

Commercial, mass, and intensive farming all have the same basics. Scientists have always worried that there would not be enough food to meet the enormous population. So far, agriculture industries have kept up with the demand. The way that food is produced in mass farming units is neither healthy nor environmentally friendly. Livestock are hardly ever let outside to graze, and are given antibiotics to prevent illnesses. Produce is sprayed with chemicals, fertilizers, and growth implicates to protect against insects, fungi, and weeds. Without these harmful chemicals, intensive farming just could not be possible. Intensive farmers have a main goal, making more in less time. They want to grow food faster with less of a workforce. This is why farmers use chemicals and fertilizers to prevent famines from breaking out, as what occurred in Ireland. A fatal mistake of bringing a plant disease from North America to Ireland in 1845 caused a main food source, the potato, to rot in the ground. This would not have been such a huge blow if the Irish did not depend so heavily on one crop. Although pesticides and fertilizers seem a useful tool, they poison both the consumer and the land. Pesticides can wash from the plants into the wilderness and rivers. This greatly harms the environment and can harm the water. Also, pesticides remain on the food once they are purchased and eaten. Pesticides can kill helpful insects that pollinate and benefit the crop. If pesticides are used to often, the pests that are trying to be killed will adapt and do incredible damage. Not to mention, both fertilizers and chemicals are expensive.

A number of people believe that genetically modified foods (GM) are the way of the future. GM produce is made to tweak the genetics of the food to make them bigger and stronger. They can be changed to use fewer chemicals, which can assist the environment. Others believe that the produce looses some of its nutritional value when changed. Also, this only benefits larger farms and poorer farmers in low- income countries cannot compete for they are too poor to purchase this changed seed. Scientists worry about if the modified version were to escape from the lab and submerge in the natural ecosystem, terrible disasters could be instilled. The plant could wipe out natural biodiversity, which can kill a vast number of animals on the food chain.

Consumers want a good quality food with a reasonable price. Many believe that sustainable farming costs too much, especially in these economic times. In the UK, organic vegetables cost 25-50% more than the conventional methods. This intimidates a vast majority of buyers. Organic farming may cost more, but all the money is for the larger amounts of labor and better quality management to use the land sustainably. The price on the sticker of conventional farming may be lower than the organic methods but if tallied the untold costs, conventional farming actually costs more. The money that is spent cleaning drinking water from the fatal fertilizers or the money that taxpayers pay to the government that produces conventional food all adds up. “Non-organic food is not as cheap as it appears. Consumers are paying for it three times over – first over the counter, second via taxation which mainly subsidizes non-organic farming, and third to remedy the damage that farming and food production has done to the environment and human health.”-Soil Association.

Organic farming is thought to be a main component in sustainable farming. Organic farming rotates in a circle like many of the old fashioned farms did. Instead of purchasing chemical filled fertilizers, manure from animals is spread over the ground. Livestock is given free roam and able to eat normal diets. Pesticides are prevented from use and replaced with “friendly” insects and plants that repel garden pests. Everything is in a cycle. It can make a huge impact if the majority of farmers switched to being partly or entirely organic. The number of organic farms is rather low but that can change if action is taken. Some wonder if organic farming can meet the food that is needed. Studies from Switzerland show that results of wheat growth was 10% lower in organic farms and 40% lower with potatoes. Soil is also not as fertile in tropical zones and would make it even more difficult to grow anything organically. Yields of crops may be lower, however, pricy chemicals would be of no need, drastically lowering the cost. This would also benefit less developed countries from organic methods. They have many people who could serve in the field and could afford this with a little assistance at first. In Kenya, the people took use of the fertile lands and large number of workers and set up an organic vegetable farm where the produce is in high demand in Europe. This has created jobs and rapidly took in money and became a main source of income for the country. Organic farms encourage insects by farming small areas and placing hedges around the field to bring in helpful insects, which brings the birds to feed. Results from the Soil Association have found that 50% more wildlife comes to organic farms, imitating the natural environment.

Although it seems as if the consumer has no role in this process, the role they play is major. By buying a certain product, this tells the company to create more. If people refuse to buy food grown unsustainably, these businesses will be forced to change. European Union countries now refuse to import beef from U.S. cattle that have been given growth hormones. The U.S. claimed that this act is illegal but the Europeans did not wish to sacrifice their health. Similar protests have occurred in Europe with GM foods. Other countries are forced to evolve to survive. When the Soviet Union was still in power, Cuba was highly dependent on imported chemicals, seeds, machines and oil. Their produce would be shipped over the world, wasting enormous amounts of gas. Along with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, came the removal of the financial support for agriculture in Cuba. The people could no longer afford the luxuries they had before and many could see that starvation was imminent. In response, the people developed organic farming techniques. They changed dumps to beautiful, fertile land and sold all their fruits, vegetables, and spices to the local people. The farms provided jobs to families without the use of vile chemicals. Countries of the world must follow these bold examples.

Sustainable farming can occur by preventing usage of fertilizers and chemicals, going organic, and helping the global community. Sustainable farming is cheaper in the long run, contains a better nutritional value and works with the land to globally distribute food. Change is on the horizon and with it comes a sustainable world with food for generations to come. Sustainable farming is the only way to feed the world and help the environment at the same time.

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