What is sustainable agriculture?


There’s no better time for some ‘blue sky thinking’ on how we can take the good points of our current food production systems, add some modifications, and explore new possibilities.


The purpose would be to conceive truly sustainable agricultural systems.


But what is sustainable agriculture? It’s already become a term that is used too liberally, and consequently has lost its value, as has the term ‘eco’, which has been appropriated by everything from tourism ventures to pest control companies.


The term ‘sustainable agriculture’ makes more sense when turned around: ‘agriculture able to sustain’.


And here, we should include the ability to sustain livelihoods, healthy landscapes, and healthy people.


Sustenance is based on regeneration, and must be suitable to the environment and people  - suitable agriculture might make more sense as a term than sustainable agriculture.


To sustain the health of landscapes (from where our food comes) and people (to where our food goes), our production systems must be flexible.  We need to be versatile and adapt, by coping with difficult circumstances and capitalising on good times, because we’ll definitely encounter both.


In the plant and animal kingdoms, adaptation is always discussed in a local context; i.e. how a creature adapts to its local environment. I think the same should hold for our food production systems – developing truly local adaptations that work with what we’ve got, rather than hoping we can control what comes our way.


To me, that is suitable and sustainable agriculture.