Alternative Farming

“Alternative Farming” is gaining momentum, but what is it? The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC), a project of the National Agricultural Library (NAL), you will find information related to community supported agriculture, organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and more.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new idea in farming, but it has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. According to Suzanne DeMuth, “The CSA concept originated in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan, where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops joined together in economic partnerships.”

Community supported agriculture basically consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the growers and consumers provide mutual support and share the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members become “share-holders” of the farm in return for a portion of the farm’s production throughout the growing season, which can vary due to unfavorable weather or pests. Direct sales to the community provides farmers with working capital in advance, better prices for their crops, some financial security, and relief from some of the burden of marketing.

Suzanne DeMuth, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): An Annotated Bibliography and Resource Guide, September 1993.

There is no universally accepted definition of Organic Agriculture, but according (12/21/04) “ general organic farming is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming systems rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manure, off-farm organic wastes, mechanical cultivation, mineral bearing rocks, and aspects or biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and to control weeds, insects and other pests.”

According to Dr. John E. Ikerd, Extension Professor, University of Missouri “Sustainable Agriculture”...must be economically viable, socially responsible, and ecologically sound. The economic, social, and ecological are interrelated, and all are essential to sustainability. An agriculture that uses up or degrades its natural resource base, or pollutes the natural environment, eventually will lose its ability to produce. It’s not sustainable. An agriculture that isn’t profitable, at least over time, will not allow its farmers to stay in business. It’s not sustainable. An agriculture that fails to meet the needs of society, as producers and citizens as well as consumers, will not be sustained by society. It’s not sustainable. A sustainable agriculture must be all three—ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible. And the three must be in harmony.”

The future of sustainable agriculture looks promising, and challenging. According to ATTRA—National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, the number of acres in organic production continues to rise, and sales of organic foods are growing at 20 to 25 percent a year. The USDA has enlarged its commitment to sustainability; the 2002 Farm Bill contains provisions that clearly benefit and encourage sustainable practices; the National Organic Standards now provide a common benchmark for certifying organic production.

Visit the Victory Seed Company.

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