The term sustainable farming as defined by sustainabletable.org is, “the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.” Essentially, sustainable farming is growing food or raising animals in a way that is most beneficial and least destructive to the humans and the environment at the same time!
Despite sometimes being thought of as interchangeable, the terms sustainable and organic are not interchangeable when it comes to farming. Both methods are preferable to conventional farming as their impact (or lack thereof) on the environment and people is typically less than conventional farming. There are some key differences between sustainable and organic farming.
Organic farming is often large-scale and is standardized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Organic farms do not use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Sustainable farming is often small scale, varies by locales, and is not technically regulated. In addition to eliminating GMOs and chemicals, sustainable farming takes in to consideration water and energy efficiency, impact on the local landscape, and the treatment of farm workers as part of operating procedures, among others.
Farming sustainably is overall healthier for people and the environment because of procedures for eliminating pesticides, raising livestock without hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics, reducing soil erosion and nutrient depletion, and managing animal waste to avoid contamination of waterways.
If you have ever thought of starting a sustainable backyard garden here are a few important tips:
The most important step is to begin to compost if you do not already. Compost provides rich soil for gardening as well as provides an alternative to throwing away food scraps.
Mulch is also very important and serves as protection for the root systems of your plants as well as keeping in moisture from the soil.
Planting native plants to your climate is very important. These kinds of plants will require less care and will still grow well because they are already adapted to your climate.
Check out these links for more info on sustainable gardening at home.