In today’s agriculture, maintaining farm profitability, environmental quality and community viability are issues of major concern to both farmers and the non-farm public. The health of each of these factors provides us with some measure of how our society is doing, and is an indicator of the sustainability of our overall support systems. Farmers across the nation are re-evaluating the impact of food production on people and the environment. I .argely, they are learning that it is often more profitable to substitute information and management for purchased inputs and capital. This trend toward enhanced environmental responsibility and economic viability is occurring at an unprecedented rate in all parts of this country, and in all sectors of agriculture. It is a move toward sustainable agriculture.
“Sustainable agriculture is an investment in future food production and communities that is economically viable, ecologically sound and socially responsible.” – PASA, 1993
Sustainable farming systems are highly integrated, information-rich operations combining skilled management, biological diversity, innovative marketing and a high degree of flexibility with good stewardship and a long-term vision for land and people. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture manage the farm profitably today, for tomorrow’s generations.
During the 1993 growing season, PASA continued a collaborative effort with American Farmland Trust to help farmers experiment with and demonstrate some of the component practices of sustainable agriculture. This collaboration formed the basis for the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Project – 1993. Sixteen farm-based demonstration sites located in counties throughout the Commonwealth were established with cooperating farmers. These demonstrations were designed to address issues in farm management that emphasized reducing impacts on water quality, building and maintaining soil health, improving farm profitability and enhancing the rural economy.
The information presented in this year’s publication was collected from cooperating producers throughout the year. It is intended to give the reader an idea of what sustainable agriculture looks like when new practices are applied to actual farming operations. It can also help farmers better understand how these concepts can be applied to many different farms, especially their own.
Any new practice or farming technique should be applied on a smallscale basis first. If something in this publication appears to have applicability to your farm, try it on a few acres before making any conversions. Each farm is different, and the information documented here is true for one farm in a given year. Evaluate these concepts for your situation and modify the practices to fit your farming operation.