Professional Development Program






PAGE 88 / 102

Unit 3: Systems in Action


NRCS Resource Conservationist and a landowner examine the Spring Creek Rehabilitation project near Polson, Montana. (Bob Nichols, USDA NRCS)
In this course we refer to farmers and ranchers as agroecosystem managers. That concept has helped to highlight how sustainable agriculture encompasses much more than the technical aspects of producing a crop or raising livestock. Sustainable agriculture requires a much broader perspective that includes seeing the farm or ranch as an ecosystem. From this perspective, management decisions affect the system as a whole, and answers to production problems and challenges are often found in ways of strengthening and improving the health of that system.
The whole system approach leads us to measure things differently as well. Rather than looking at just yields and production levels, agroecosystem managers look at a wide range of indicators to assess the sustainability of farms and ranches. For many producers, this shift in perspective leads to a greater interest in monitoring the long-term effects of the practices being implemented. This commitment to understanding their agroecosystem can be seen as a hallmark of sustainable farmers and ranchers across the country.
This section of this course provides information about some of the basic techniques that farmers and ranchers can put into practice for monitoring agroecosystems and the impact of their practices.
PAGE 88 / 102