Agricultural sustainability is of increasing interest to stakeholders throughout the food system -- from farms, to processors, retailers, and consumers. A more sustainable agriculture may be part of the solution to ‘wicked’ challenges like climate change, food stability, and biosecurity. But what is sustainable agriculture? How can we understand sustainable agriculture in terms of environmental, economic, and social impacts? Why is it important to work towards agricultural sustainability? This website aims to offer some answers to these and other questions. We acknowledge there are multiple working definitions of sustainable agriculture and want to emphasize that the resources contained here are not comprehensive. Please use the contact form on this page to provide us with feedback on how you used the site, what resources were helpful, suggest additional resources for consideration, and anything else you would like to share.
A few definitions of sustainable agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is a complex concept and there are multiple ways to define it. We offer a few common or widely accepted definitions of sustainable agriculture below.
“The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
“Sustainable agricultural practices are intended to protect the environment, expand the Earth’s natural resource base, and maintain and improve soil fertility. Based on a multi-pronged goal, sustainable agriculture seeks to:
- Increase profitable farm income
- Promote environmental stewardship
- Enhance quality of life for farm families and communities
- Increase production for human food and fiber needs”
“The term “sustainable agriculture” means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long-term—
- satisfy human food and fiber needs;
- enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends;
- make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
- sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
- enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”
Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled some guiding questions to help you reflect on your current perspective on sustainable agriculture and hopefully spark interest in some of the resources included in the environmental, economic, and social sections of this site. We invite you to use these questions to guide you to the relevant pages and resources.
- Should sustainability rectify wealth disparities?
- Does return on investment pertain to sustainability?
- Are the economic opportunities to capitalize on sustainability?
- Does economics interact with the environmental and social elements of sustainability?
- Should I be concerned about economics if I want to impact sustainability?
If any of these questions piqued your interest, please visit the economics page.
- Our organization is focused on keeping small family farms viable.
- Our organization is focused on fostering local food systems.
- Our organization is focused on minorities in agriculture.
- Our organization is focused on marketing alternative crops.
- Our organization is focused on wildlife conservation.
If any of these statements piqued your interest, please visit the environment page.
- To what extent do you or your organization:
- Understand and acknowledge the present and historical injustices inherent in your work? Work to dismantle the systems that perpetuate these injustices?
- Attribute indigenous communities whose knowledge underpins agricultural practices or philosophies?
- Evaluate processes and outcomes of your work to mitigate bias and enhance equity and social justice?
- Consider the impacts of your work on human and community health, quality of life, and other social elements of agriculture?
- Actively engage with diverse stakeholders to assess and progress your work?
If any of these questions piqued your interest, please visit the social page.
The resources on this site reflect the views, perspectives, and realities of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Doctor of Plant Health program, or other entities the authors have represented in the past or will in the future. We welcome constructive feedback and dialogue about the contents of this site, including suggestions for improvement. Please use the contact form below to provide such feedback.
Please contact us with any feedback, comments, or suggestions on this site. It would be our privilege to learn from you.