What is Sustainable Farming? An Introduction

Sustainable agriculture or sustainable farming is a field of study that integrates 3 main goals – environmental health, economic profitability, and social equity.
Sustainable Farming

What is Sustainable Farming? An Introduction

Sustainable farming is a field of study on its own. University courses in agriculture will invariably include elements of sustainable farming, and certain specializations have biome fields of study in their own right. In practice, the vast majority of farmers are striving for sustainability regardless of their level of education. So, you may ask yourself, “What is sustainable farming?”

Sustainable farming practices aim to meet food and textile needs for the population at large without in any way harming the potential for future generations to produce and be supplied with everything they need.

The Three Pillars of Sustainability

The most commonly recognized principles upon which sustainability depends can be summed up as the 3 Ps: Planet, People, and Profit. Some authorities term this differently and consider human and social needs as being two related, but distinct principles on their own. However, for our purposes, we will consider both of these as falling under “People.”

Sustainability principles apply to all industries, but in this article, we’re looking at them with particular reference to agriculture, arguably the industry with the largest burden of responsibility in terms of the current and future wellbeing of the planet and its people. As an introduction to sustainable agriculture, let’s consider some of the basics that fall under each of the 4 Ps.


From soil management practices to water-savings and the protection of water quality, farmers have always had a role to play in protecting environmental wellbeing. That it has not always been played well is evidenced by environmental disasters such as the two million hectares of excessively saline soil and water caused by rising water tables following bush clearance in Australia. In countries around the world, poor agricultural practices have resulted in soil erosion, the pollution of surface and underground water, and even the extinction of plant and animal species. Today, sustainable farmers strive to be productive while limiting negative environmental impacts.


The primary context in which agriculture comes under scrutiny in terms of its relationship with people remains the fair treatment of laborers. For centuries, farm workers have been among the lowest-paid workers around the world, but it’s not just in their remuneration that sustainable farming practices can help agricultural laborers. Safe working conditions, reasonable hours, and extra benefits like educational services and access to health care are among the concerns that sustainable agriculture seeks to address. 


No business, including agribusiness, can be sustainable without profit. In the longer term, environmental sustainability contributes to profits, and a better-cared-for workforce with greater opportunities can help to improve productivity. However, increasing yields while cutting costs, and achieving both without adversely impacting people or the environment requires a great deal of skill, forethought, and knowledge. It also requires input from the scientific community, with researchers targeting issues like water use and safer, more cost-effective yield-enhancing agrichemicals as well as the genetic makeup of the crops themselves. 

More Mouths to Feed, Fewer Resources to Do it With

While some people believe that the solution to sustainable agriculture is a return to centuries-old farming practices, the modern world is very different to the one in which they farmed. With a growing world population and limited availability of resources like arable land and fresh water, sustainable farmers and the industries that support them are looking for ways to get “more” from “less.” It will require ingenuity, new methods, and an openness to change. Should we succeed in the objectives encompassed by the term “sustainable farming,” we can look forward to a better world in both the present and the future.  
The Scientific World

The Scientific World is a Scientific and Technical Information Network that provides readers with informative & educational blogs and articles. Site Admin: Mahtab Alam Quddusi - Blogger, writer and digital publisher.

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