In today’s fast-paced world of constant information, 24-hour news, social media frenzies and ever-changing trends by consumers, the topic of sustainability has been a phrase that pops up almost everywhere, from social media to corporate responsibility statements and more, on a daily basis.
So, what is sustainability? Sustainability is a very broad topic. When you ask most farmers what their definition of sustainability is, you usually get a joking response like: “Sustainable to me means farming another year.” They usually laugh then tell you being sustainable to them truly means providing for their family today and leaving their farm operation better for the next generation, this applies both to financial resources for the farm and natural resources on the land itself.
When you ask most consumers their definition of sustainability, they typically go directly to environmental sustainability, because that’s what this trend has led them to do. These same consumers now demand that the products they purchase be derived from sustainable production practices. This also applies to food, fiber and forestry products. Farmers have to demonstrate their production practices are vetted through the “social licensing” process to meet the consumers’ ethical and moral values, in addition to the consumers’ usual decision factors, such as price, product brand and quality. Good or bad, sustainability is a topic that’s here to stay.
Agriculture has a long, beautiful story to tell in the conversation on sustainability and has a unique opportunity to capitalize on this movement. By default, farmers were indeed the very first conservationists. As I further discuss this topic, I could throw thousands of facts and figures out that clearly quantify how farmers are becoming more sustainable every day by reducing water use, pesticide applications and fuel consumption. Ultimately, all of this data will emphatically demonstrate that farmers are using less to produce more than ever before in human history.
A few specific innovations that have been monumental in farmers becoming more sustainable include:
In closing, farmers have been sustainable for years, constantly improving the job they do on a daily basis. They take the utmost care of the land, pasture and crops of which the Lord has made them good stewards. They view these vital resources as a business partner for their generation and for future generations to come. In essence, farmers were sustainable before being sustainable was a trendy thing to do. We as an industry have to be proactive and do a better job of telling this wonderful story.