The current industrial food complex is not without its benefits. You can buy affordable, exotic fruits and vegetables all year round, and they look great. However, these benefits don’t outweigh the many downsides of current farming practices.
Disadvantage 1: Inorganic Fertilizers
For starters, we are overly reliant on fossil fuel-based fertilizers to cultivate the crops we eat. The disadvantages of this are hard to fully appreciate:
- Extracting fossil fuels for fertilizers brings a terrible price as we deforest, mine, and refine these resources. Every step of this process makes us worse off as a planet.
- Using fossil fuel inputs in our food produces lower yields than organic fertilizers do. More important, it makes the food we eat less healthy – in fact it’s downright dangerous. Who wants oil and coal in their veggies?
- Inorganic fertilizers do indeed help plants grow, but they do very little for the soil, which is why farmers must reapply these petro-fertilizers year after year. As a result, toxic compounds and chemicals quickly build up, making the soil even less fertile than if you had never added any synthetic fertilizers at all.
Disadvantage 2: Loss of Ecosystems
Because inorganic fertilizers produce increasingly lower yields over time, food producers are incentivized to clear more and more land to compensate. Cutting down trees and destroying precious ecosystems is pretty much the definition of unsustainable.
The situation is even more puzzling when you realize that 1/3 of the food produced doesn’t even make it into our bellies. Said another way – instead of clearing more and more land for farming, we should be reducing the land we already use – by as much as 33%.
Disadvantage 3: Health Risks
Current farming practices bring numerous health risks, some of which have already been described up above. But they’re worth repeating:
- Inorganic fertilizers and deforestation make our air less breathable, our water less drinkable, and our planet less livable.
- Synthetic chemicals (i.e. pesticides, artificial hormones, and inorganic fertilizers) make our food extremely unhealthy. Why would we grow food that is harmful to eat and actually makes us sick?
Disadvantage 4: Waste, Waste, and More Waste
Farming will never be sustainable unless the millions of tons of waste produced are put to better use. In addition to the fruits and vegetables that never even reach our supermarkets, farms also create a lot of organic waste (hay, chaff, stalks, manure, etc.) that can easily be recycled into safe fertilizers and clean energy.
When not recycled, this waste remains exactly that – waste. Worse still, much of this organic material is sent to landfills where it sits, rots, and produces methane and other toxic greenhouse gases.
Failure to recycle these materials isn’t simply a missed opportunity – it’s a problem with unlimited downside.
The disadvantages outlined above don’t only apply to farms. They also affect home gardens, lawn maintenance companies, and anywhere else plants are routinely cultivated.
At Re-Nuble, we believe the world needs a better way to grow and harvest the food we eat and the plants we use.
Sustainable Agriculture – Path to a Cleaner Planet
Sustainable agriculture describes a method of cultivation in which the plants and animals we grow have minimal impact on the health of the environment and our bodies. Done correctly, sustainable farming can even have net positive impacts (like free, green energy made from organic waste).
The basic principles behind sustainable farming are simple:
- Use safe, environmentally friendly inputs throughout the cultivation process
- Use only those resources you absolute need – including limited land and water
- Recycle the waste produced and use these organic inputs to start the cycle again
It’s a net positive, closed loop system that results in less waste, better health, and reduced pollution. But the benefits don’t stop there:
- We all benefit from safer (and more delicious) food since we’re no longer reliant on fossil fuel inputs to fertilize our crops
- We preserve ecosystems, forests, and habitats by limiting the amount of land we use to cultivate our food
- The air, water, and land are all cleaner. No toxins in – no toxins out
- Farm workers enjoy safer and more humane conditions since they’re no longer exposed to dangerous chemicals
- Farms save money by not having to buy or import petrochemicals. They can rely on local organic resources instead. This is especially important for rural communities and impoverished farming regions
- Crop yields actually go up when you use organic inputs to grow food. This makes every acre of land more profitable
- We more effectively conserve precious resources for future generations
Sustainable Farming Is Local
One of the best things about sustainable farming is that it is entirely localized. You don’t need to wait for politicians or multinationals to dictate anything. You – as a farmer, a gardener, a landscaper – can begin today on your own. You don’t need anyone’s permission to become more sustainable.
It’s very empowering – local communities enacting local solutions. At Re-Nuble, we champion this philosophy. To learn more about our approach to sustainable farming, use the links below: