Taking a Holistic Approach to Sustainable Agriculture

The holistic approach to sustainable agriculture has been around a long time but has been largely ignored. During these difficult times of economic, social, and environmental woes, a holistic process of managing life, farmland, and business could mean the difference between prosperity and disaster. Improving the way people make decisions produces life-changing results for many.

The concept of holism was introduced by Jan Smuts in 1926 through his book Holism and Evolution. He expresses that nature and life in general function in “wholes” which are interrelated. They exist on many different levels and are dynamic. Whatever happens in one of these wholes influences the other wholes. Acknowledging this relationship helps one to better understand both nature and the man-made components of the world.

While working in the former Rhodesia in the 1960’s, Allan Savory, a biologist and game ranger, made some startling observations and developed some key insights to the understanding of why land degradation and desertification occur. In spite of the good intentions and broad applications of accepted practices and modern science, this phenomenon was and still is occurring at an alarming rate. Based on the principles of Smut’s holism, Savory developed the decision-making framework called Holistic Management. This process of looking at the big picture and making decisions based on your holistic goal is changing the lives of many while improving the land. Ranchers and farmers report increases in production, biodiversity, quality of forages, biological activity, profits and an improved quality of life. Unfortunately, many mainstream scientists refuse to accept the idea, nor are they willing to give the process a try.

In agriculture, the concept has amazing potential for application. The process recognizes the need to consider the environmental, economic, and social components of the farm. Decisions are goal based using a comprehensive vision of what is desired, what must be produced to sustain it, and how that would look. Decisions are tested based on that comprehensive goal and progress is monitored. One of the fallacies that humans often believe is that we can study and dissect nature, thereby understanding it. However, nature is a bit too complex for our minds to fully comprehend. Therefore, when making decisions — especially those that affect the environment — we must monitor! We look for the earliest sign that we are getting off course and correct the situation at the first opportunity. If we are really far from what we intended, we re-plan and test a different course of action.

Although each farm and situation is unique, the process may be used anywhere and in any type of operation if people are willing to try it. Many farmers and ranchers use the philosophy of mimicking nature and following natural cycles. This usually results in less labor and the decreased need for inputs such as money, fertilizer or fossil fuels.

It’s a simple concept for a complex situation and one that is just beginning to gain recognition. It does mean changing the way we think and also requires some discipline. Taking a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture may be the best hope for humans and the future of our world.

Sandra M. Matheson, DVM is a rancher, holistic management educator, and retired veterinarian. Innovative resources are available to help ranchers and farmers take a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sandra_Matheson


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Sustaining Our Most Important Resource — Our Youth

Sustainability is in the news nearly every day.  We talk about sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, sustainable practices, and sustainable finances, but what about our most precious resource of all — the next generation?

In the United States, the average age of farmers is 57 years old and the trend is increasing. Many farmers manage their operations in a way to improve the natural resources and biodiversity so that the future generations may benefit. As all the farmers retire and their children leave the farm, who is going to be left to run it? The developers?

What can we do as farmers and ranchers? There is no greater need and no better time than now to encourage and cultivate the next generation of farmers. The first way is help young people discover their connection to the land and to their food. Ideally, this should begin at an early age.

Molly and her Favorite Heifer Baclava

Introduce your own children, grandchildren, and neighbors to life on the farm. Encourage them to take part in farm activities. Give them the responsibility of caring for the garden or animals. Don’t simply give them chores. Teach them what you are doing and why. Involve them in the vision of the farm and decision-making.

Bring your message to other children and adults. Talk to a local teacher about coming to school and presenting what you do and why it is important. Speak at an event and/or put up an educational display. See if you can donate food for a meeting or event. Bring a farm animal to school or some other event for a visit and to talk about it. Have a petting zoo. Donate the use of an animal to spend the summer in a local park for visitors to enjoy. Show your animals or produce at the local fair and be there to engage children and other people in conversation about it. Some events provide the opportunity to “meet the farmer”.

Produce a value added product and sell it at the farmer’s Market or at a local store. Hold an event at the store so people can meet the farmer who produced the food or other product. Give out samples.

Bring kids to the farm. Host a field day or school field trip. Make it “hands on” so they can experience what farm life is like. Create a farm stand. Mentor a young person. Let them keep and animal or small garden on your place. Sponsor a youth market animal project. Support FFA, 4-H, and other youth activities. Have a judging contest.

These are only a few ways to help create that important connection among people, their food, and the land. If that connection is nurtured and the “value” of the farm, ranch, and food is established, then more young people will consider staying on the farm, thus creating a sustainable future for all of us!

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Introducing the Website

Sustainable Ag Resource is the new source of information, products, services, and listings for people with an interest in sustainable agriculture.

How it Works

Each week, the blog based site will highlight a new ag producer, product, service, organization, and/or business.  Articles of interest will be added on a regular basis.  Site visitors are welcome to comment and ask questions.

Organic Wheat grown in Eastern Washingtn State

A calendar will be posted with information on sustainable ag related events. The “Listings” pages will be directories of producers, specific products, services, organizations and businesses. (Listings will be available for a nominal fee to help keep this site active. Non-profits are allowed one free listing.)  Paid advertising will also be an option. Details will be announced soon!

Like every new “hatchling”, the website will grow over time and stretch its wings. Any suggestions you might have to improve Sustainable Ag Resource are greatly welcome!

Please feel free to Contact Us  if you have any questions.

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A Work in Progress

Welcome to Sustainable Ag Resource!

We are in the process of creating this blog based website, so your patience is appreciated. More information is coming soon.


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