Think of sustainable farming as a living loop, the farm as an ecosystem: In this context, removing all naturally occurring life from a given piece of land and replacing it with a single crop or animal doesn't make a lot of sense. Instead, sustainable farming implements growing practices that support a naturally thriving environment, beginning with biodiversity.
Sustainable farmers incorporate not only multiple crops but also trees, shrubs and animal life that help those crops to thrive. They might plant a type of flower that attracts beneficial insects or cultivate plant life that tends to repel harmful bugs. Trees and shrubs can help fend off erosion, and a diverse biological population can help keep the soil nutrient-rich and discourage weeds and disease without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Sustainable farmers cultivate the soil using natural means. They actively encourage a community of microorganisms that enhance fertility and work to establish a balance between pests and predators that keeps potential hazards under control. Sustainable farmers practice minimal tilling so they preserve this natural balance. Cover crops protect the soil during the off-season, and crop residue is left on the ground so all those nutrients return to the soil for next season. Regularly rotating crops helps keep the soil fertile for future generations.
Water Protection and Conservation
To the end of keeping the water supply clean and abundant, sustainable farming dictates the use of calculated irrigation and catch crops, which prevent minerals from washing out of the soil, in order to keep nutrients in the soil and out of groundwater. Tree and shrub root systems help prevent runoff and erosion in order to conserve both water and soil, and where crop lands meet bodies of water, buffer areas are established so farming activity does not adversely affect a water supply.
That sustainable farming would benefit the land is perhaps no surprise. The concept directly opposes environmentally damaging, industrial farming practices. But the "sustainable" in sustainable farming isn't only about the land.
On the next page discover some of the benefits of sustainable farming!