Picture this: it’s summertime in Texas and the local bank sign reads 102 degrees Fahrenheit. You walk into your nearest corner grocery store, and just as you reach the produce aisle you see it. There’s a ten-pound watermelon, dripping with fresh condensation, and it has your name written all over it. You rush to the check-out line and eventually tote your refreshing watermelon to your 42nd annual family reunion. Little did you know that you just participated in the final step of agricultural farming, and by purchasing one simple watermelon, you have forever changed the economic values of that particular food group.
Whoa … pretty intense stuff, right? We’ll explain.
Economic values have a large impact on the relationship between farmers and consumers. The more product farmers grow or raise, the more consumers purchase, and the more the price goes down. For this reason, consumers usually purchase food items from grocery stores that are farmed by traditional means due to the lower price.
Traditional agriculture serves its purpose and can feed large quantities of people in a short amount of time. However, these results are achieved by the use of various pesticides and chemicals to keep the level of insects at a minimum. While this method may be speedy, it sometimes delivers unwanted results, such as ruined soil and the risk of disease in humans (sustainabletable.org).
Sustainable agriculture involves a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible form of agriculture that’s also a “way of life” that modern farmers are beginning to incorporate into all aspects of their operations.
The U.S. Congress defines Sustainable Agriculture as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices that, over the long-term, are economically viable (profitable), socially supportive, and ecologically sound.
Andy Clark, Communications Director at Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, described a few of the alternative methods used in sustainable agriculture. “Sustainable agriculture involves improving the soil’s ways of managing pests (weeds and insects) by using tactics like crop rotation, covering crops, increasing the different types of crops, and selling to local consumers rather than larger markets,” said Clark.
So when you see that perfect watermelon or other farm raised product, remember that each piece of food that’s shipped to your nearest grocery store has a story. It’s important to make sure yours has a good one.