The “S” Word

10.3.2004 shop & Tour 022sky

In an era of climate change hysteria, diminishing natural resources, discussions about food security and political posturing, the word shouting out at us from every angle is “sustainability”.

What does it mean in the context of our agricultural industry?

Wikipedia defines sustainable agriculture as the practice of farming using the principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It is an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site specific application that lasts over the long term.

Defra talks about “ensuring the continuing availability to the consumer of adequate supplies of wholesome, varied and reasonably priced food, produced within accordance with generally accepted environmental and social standards”.

To my simple way of thinking, sustainable farming is about producing more food per hectare with reduced inputs (particularly of fossil fuel based products) and with due regard for the environment.

LEAF has been demonstrating this for years – it’s called Integrated Farm Management.

What’s your definition of sustainable agriculture?


About the author

Stephen Fell 1Stephen Fell is LEAF’s Chairman and Managing Director of the family farming business HR Fell and Sons Ltd, running a flock of 1000 sheep and growing root crops at Thorganby in the Vale of York. He is also Managing Director of Lindum Turf, a business growing and marketing a range of turf and specialist grass and wildflower products.


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2 responses to “The “S” Word

  1. I like your simple definition Stephen, but I think there is more to it – the current systems for processing, distribution and retail are totally unsustainable in the face of diminishing and ever more costly fossil fuels, and I think the definition should explicitly address this. the last phrase also needs to be stronger. I suggest a simple addition to your definition:

    Sustainable farming is about producing more food per hectare with reduced inputs (particularly of fossil fuel based products), more localised processing and distribution, safeguarding the land and wider environment.

    No doubt others will have further suggestions, but I hope that helps…

    Robin Walker, Chair, Transition Evesham Vale

  2. I Don’t disagree that more could be added to this explanation of sustainable,but the simpler the definition the more accessible it will be.We need to be aware that most people don’t know and don’t really care what goes into producing food as long as they get something to eat.Getting a nice simple explanation into the general domain could go a long way to highlighting what sustainable farming is all about.
    Phil (bfpeas.com) A lowly farm labourer .

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