Sustainable. A word that has been tossed around loosely in the farming industry over the last few years. For many people it carries very little meaning, if any at all. By definition “sustainable” means:
a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
- sustainable techniques
- sustainable agriculture
b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods
- sustainable society
Have you ever heard the word “sustainable” and asked yourself what it means to you? As a farmer, I am asked on a daily basis if our farm employs sustainable practices. My answer is “yes”, but I feel compelled to share with you what that word means to us, your farmer.
We have been fortunate to have opportunities of travel. We have seen such amazing parts of our country through the exploration of travel. Recently we traveled through beautiful Virginia. It was an incredible state filled with natural resources, wide open spaces, and mountain backdrops around every turn. Naturally, our family began to scout out local farms, and markets to source our food during our stay. A task that became extremely challenging, fast. After coming up shorthanded in our search efforts, we began chatting with the locals, desperately trying to find a farmer/market close-by. Every conversation sounded the same. Most of the family farms collapsed, and the ones that are able to still farm had moved towards conventional methods, and only market produce on a distribution level. Those farms also grew mono-crops comprised of corn and soybeans.
I started thinking about why we began farming for our community. It was in part because of the NEED for more local food options within our community. It became a chore spending 5+ hours every week piecing together meals for your family that you hoped were locally grown and raised using chemical free, sustainable, humane practices – so you can feel good about what you’re feeding your family. I found it important to have a relationship with my local farmers. After all, I am trusting them to provide nourishment for my family. I began to fully understand the relationship between a community and a farm on our recent travels. Don’t misunderstand my words; I have always known the importance of community, which is why we are a “community based, family farm” but I’ve always felt a slight favoritism towards the farm and the amount of support it provides it’s community. As we passed through town after town without any sign of locally grown, clean produce it became abundantly clear how much support it takes from a community to sustain a local family farm. Without community involvement and support, small family farms are unable to sustain and are forced to close the farm and seek work outside of their farm. Thus eliminating a local food source, and creating sharp declines in local economies and a community’s quality of life.
Sustainability for us, is comprised of three main objectives: healthy environment, local economic profitability, and social and economical equality. To be a small, thriving family farm would be impossible without our community sustaining us. Our community is our resource. Sustainable farming practices are imperative for a farms longevity, but a community who supports their local farmers is equally valuable and absolutely necessary. We are privileged to serve in a community that embraces the local food movement.