Professional Development Program






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Unit 1: Conceptual Framework and Historical Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture


In summary, sustainable agriculture encompasses broad goals related to the environment, profitability, and quality of life. Farmers and ranchers integrate these themes every day. The graphic below illustrates a number of the areas in which farmers develop specific strategies to meet their goals of long-term sustainability. Click on a number or area with your mouse to explore.
Putting it All Together
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Area 7 Area 3 Area 9 Area 6 Area 1 Area 5 Area 8 Area 4 Area 2

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Alternative MarketingIPM is an approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks.

Rotational Grazing

Alternative MarketingManagement-intensive grazing systems take animals out of the barn and into the pasture to provide high-quality forage and reduced feed costs while avoiding manure buildup.

Soil Conservation

Alternative MarketingMany soil conservation methods, including strip cropping, reduced tillage and no-till help prevent loss of soil due to wind and water erosion.

Water Quality and Wetlands

Alternative MarketingWater conservation and protection have become important parts of agricultural stewardship. Practices such as planting riparian buffer strips can improve the quality of drinking and surface water, as well as protect wetlands.

Cover Crops

Alternative MarketingGrowing plants such as rye, clover or vetch after harvesting a grain or vegetable crop or intercropping them can provide several benefits, including weed suppression, erosion control and improved soil nutrients and soil quality.

Crop/Landscape Diversity

Alternative MarketingGrowing a greater variety of crops and livestock on a farm can help reduce risks from extremes in weather, market conditions or pests. Increased diversity of crops and other plants, such as trees and shrubs, also can contribute to soil conservation, wildlife habitat and increased populations of beneficial insects.

Nutrient Management

Alternative MarketingProper management of manure, nitrogen and other plant nutrients can improve the soil and protect the environment. Increased use of on-farm nutrients sources, such as manure and leguminous cover crops, also reduced purchased fertilizer costs.


Alternative MarketingAgroforestry covers a range of tree uses on farms, including inter-planting trees (such as walnuts) with crops or pasture, growing shade-loving specialty crops in forests, better managing woodlots and windbreaks, and using trees and shrubs along streams as buffer strips.

Alternative Marketing

Alternative MarketingFarmers and ranchers across the country are finding that innovative marketing strategies can improve profits. Direct marketing of agricultural goods may include selling at farmers markets, roadside stands or online; delivering to restaurants and small groceries; and running community-supported agriculture (CSA) enterprises.