Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is generally thought of as agricultural production systems that address three areas:

  • being profitable for the farmer
  • being environmentally friendly
  • providing a good quality of life for the farmer, farmworker, and the community.

Although there are arguments about what does and does not constitute sustainable agriculture, the core issue is providing food, fiber, and possibly energy for a growing population without destroying the ecosystems on which we all depend.

This requires looking at agricultural production in new ways and exploring alternatives that will work with ecological cycles and reduce dependence on non-renewable resources. It also requires considering how agriculture impacts the economic and social fabric of our communities—both rural and urban, local and global.

The Crop and Soil Science Department, along with other departments in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has long been committed to producing food and fiber in ways that maintain farmers’ livelihoods and reduce environmental impacts. Many faculty have long worked with conservation tillage systems in rows crops to achieve these goals. Other faculty are investigating ways to improve grazing systems to increase soil carbon, improve productivity and decrease water quality impacts. Recently new work on perennial clover/corn production systems has begun to decrease nitrogen inputs and decrease water quality impacts while maintaining productivity. More recently, we have begun to investigate the relationship between agricultural production and society – from studies that aim to support farmers in responding to a changing climate, to those that examine alternative agricultural movements and their consequences for farmers and communities. Together, we seek innovative solutions to agricultural issues that are good for farmers, good for the environment, and good for communities.

The department of Crop and Soil Sciences offers a graduate-level Sustainable Agriculture area of emphasis for students interested in pursuing this work.

For more information about Sustainable Agriculture research, please contact the faculty member(s) listed below each specialty.

Agricultural Anthropology
Jennifer Jo Thompson and Carrie Furman

Sustainable Agriculture
Dorcas Franklin and Julia Gaskin