Professional Development Program






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Unit 1: Conceptual Framework and Historical Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture


Sustainable agriculture is not a philosophy in itself, but it has its roots in several fundamental ideas and principles. Click on each item below to learn more:
  • Interconnections
  • A systems perspective is essential to understanding sustainability, from the individual farm, to the local ecosystem, and to communities affected by this farming system both locally and globally. Looking at the whole system results in a larger and more thorough view of the consequences of farming practices on human communities and the environment. A systems approach gives us the tools to explore the interconnections between farming and other aspects of our environment.

  • Stewardship
  • Most farmers and ranchers view themselves as more than owners of a business enterprise. They are also stewards or caretakers of the land. Part of that role involves preserving, conserving and, where possible, enhancing the natural resources that are the basis of food production.

  • Profitability
  • The emphasis in sustainable agriculture is not on how much you can produce or getting the greatest yield. The focus is on developing farm and ranch businesses that are profitable in the long-term, looking at ways to increase the value of your product while lowering costs.

  • Importance of agriculture to society and the intrinsic value of rural life and livelihood
  • Agriculture is one of the foundations of society and culture. Farmers play a crucial role as producers of food. Society must value and honor that contribution in practical terms that extend to everyone involved in food production, including hired labor and rural businesses and communities.

  • Scientific and experimental knowledge are of equal value
  • Interdisciplinary efforts in research and education require not only the input of researchers from various disciplines, but also farmers, farmworkers, consumers, policymakers and others.

  • The transition to sustainable agriculture is a process
  • For farmers, the transition to sustainable agriculture normally requires a series of small, realistic steps. Family economics and personal goals influence how fast or how far participants can go in the transition. Each small decision can make a difference and contribute to advancing the entire system further on the continuum of sustainability.

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