Re : Sustainable Agriculture

Hi to all sanets,

I must admit I have never liked the term sustainable agriculture since 
its inception due I guess the adoption of the term instead of organic 
farming. Back at this time there was really only conventional 
agriculture and alternative farming.  The definition of sustainable 
agriculture seemed to be a bit of an easy way out for academics and 
government people to accept organic farming type practices. Organic 
farming has all the wrong connetations for researchers and government 
advisers but sustainable agriculture was acceptable.

In Australia the term is loosely used for practices which have 
economic sustainability as the major thrust with a bit of 
environmental flavour thrown in. Rarely does pollution of the 
environment, social or community issues get a mention.

The problem is that definitions are often provided that suit the end 
purpose of that authority or that scientist. There are as many 
definitions of sustainable agriculture as there are of organic 
farming. Some quite complex and all- encompassing, others brief but 
encapsulating the real heart of what we mean. The definition provided 
by Wendall Berry  perhaps says it all....sustainable agriculture is 
one that does not  deplete soils or people.

In relation to indicators that might assist us in looking at the 
sustainability of properties the following criteria was used by myself 
in an action research project in examining the sustainability of a 
certified organic farm:
1. 	Philosophical
2. 	 Soil resource
3. 	Hydrological
4. 	Biotic factors
5. 	System level indicators
6. 	Pest & weed control
7. 	Economic viability
8. 	Social & cultural
These key indicators had many sub indicators to give data that might 
provide an indication of the sustainability of that property. The 
study by no means was complete and much future  work will be required 
to give even better information. The farm did stack up well however 
using these indicators.

If anyone was intersted in this paper I could forward it to them minus 
a few diagrams.

Some more food for thought.
I continue to stress to authorities in  Australia  that certified 
organic farms are the only production systems that operate under a 
strict code of ethics(standards) that can lead to a sustainable 
agricultural system. Annual re-inspections ensure that correct 
management practices are being followed. What other agricultural 
system can provide this leadership?

Sorry for the length of this note,

Chris Alenson
Technical Adviser
Organic Advisory Service
Organica Retailers & Growers Association of Australia