What is Sustainable Agriculture?

    Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals--environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. It meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. There are many factors to consider in accomplishing the goal for sustainable agriculture. These range from fair treatment of workers and animals, to land conservation techniques. Here are a few broad ideas to aid in your achievement:

Conservation and preservation. What is taken out of the environment is put back in, so land and resources such as water, soil and air can be replenished and are available to future generations. The waste from sustainable farming stays within the farm’s ecosystem and cannot cause buildup or pollution. In addition, sustainable agriculture seeks to minimize transportation costs and fossil fuel use, and is as locally-based as possible.

Biodiversity. Farms raise different types of plants and animals, which are rotated around the fields to enrich the soil and help prevent disease and pest outbreaks. Chemical pesticides are used minimally and only when necessary; many sustainable farms do not use any form of chemicals.    

Animal welfare. Animals are well cared for, treated humanely and with respect.  They are permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, such as grazing, rooting or pecking and are fed a natural diet appropriate for their species.

Economically viable. Farmers are paid a fair wage and are not dependent on subsidies from the government. Sustainable farmers help strengthen rural communities.

Socially just. Workers are treated fairly and paid competitive wages and benefits. They work in a safe environment and are offered proper living conditions and food.

 The Oklahoma Experience Of:

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Excerpted from a tribute to Dr. Horne as the 2009 Recipient of the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Lifetime Achievement Award

Raised on a family farm near Roosevelt in southwestern Oklahoma, Dr. Jim Horne spent his lifetime in agriculture as a rancher and as an advisor to other farmers around the nation.  Today he serves as CEO and president of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, a non-profit educational foundation near Poteau.

Under Horne’s leadership since 1985, the Kerr Center has become a national leader in finding creative solutions to agricultural, environmental and social challenges.  He has become known for championing the ordinary, hard-working farmer, who is too often forgotten.

He also has developed an impressive international reputation for his 2001 book, “The Next Generation – Essential Steps to a Healthy Sustainable Agriculture.”  The book is used in sustainable agriculture education around the world and tops New Farm magazine’s list of important books about the subject.

A graduate of OSU in agriculture education and economics, Horne completed his PhD in biology in Russia.  His entire professional career has been spent with the Kerr Foundation.  In the mid-80s, a time when many had never even heard the word “sustainable,” he re-focused the foundation’s work to an emphasis on sustainable agriculture.
He continues to transform conventional agriculture with daring innovation, creativity and rock-solid research.  He does this as a distinguished author, a member of several national agricultural committees, and as an often-requested keynote speaker for worldwide organizations.  He has moved nations of farmers to sustainable agriculture.  We are proud he is one of us - an Oklahoman - teaching the world how to tend to its lands.

Across the nation, farms, ranches, and open spaces are rapidly disappearing to commercial and residential development. In Oklahoma, roughly 35,000 acres of open space is lost annually, and the rate of loss is increasing. Often, the most productive farmlands nearest our communities and the lands most valued for conservation and wildlife are under the most intense threat of development. Fortunately, a number of public agencies and nonprofit organizations are working to preserve our land through conservation easements.