Sustainable Practices: Growing Food with Integrity
Crops and animals are grown on the same farm if possible. Animal density—and manure to crop ratios—are kept below the carrying capacity of the landscape.
Organic, heirloom, and non-genetically modified (GMO) crops are the norm, with a variety grown in rotation.
Animals are raised on pastures or outside—when it is weather appropriate—with room to roam for most of their lives. There are no crowded confinement systems inherent to industrial operations. A rotational grazing system is employed, if possible.
Animal feed is species-appropriate and locally grown; it contains no synthetic additives or ingredients from genetically modified crops.
If antibiotics must be used in farm animals, they are used solely for humanely treating disease, as opposed to growth promotion or disease prevention. Artificial growth hormones and steroids are avoided entirely.
Farmers strive to use natural fertilizers, including nitrogen-fixing crops, green manures (i.e. alfalfa), and locally-sourced compost or animal manures that are free of pathogens and heavy metals. Synthetic fertilizers are only used when other options are not available.
Farmers take all precautions to keep manure pollution out of waterways by:
Using the latest science to determine how much fertilizer can be safely applied to crops
Excluding farm animals from streams and rivers
Storing and composting manure in sheds or enclosed tanks, away from waterways and groundwater recharge areas, until it can be recycled back into the soil
Developing and implementing a nutrient management plan
Applying manure to cropland immediately before planting with a calibrated spreader
Incorporating manure into the soil with adequate time before rainfall is anticipated
Not spreading manure during critical winter months
Planting cover crops and native plants and trees.
Every effort is made to use natural methods (no synthetic/chemical sprays) to control and manage insects, weeds, and diseases; farmers use plant-based (and truly biodegradable) alternatives to plastic mulch.
Soil fertility and land conservation is promoted by installing erosion and runoff controls where needed, eliminating farming on steep slopes, reducing tillage, planting perennial cover crops, and planting wide vegetative buffers around waterways.
Farmers are transparent—they welcome visitors to the farm and proactively share with consumers the practices they use to grow food and protect the environment.
Sustainable farms work to minimize external inputs and fossil fuel consumption to maintain their operations. They conserve scarce water resources through practices such as drip irrigation and planting regionally-appropriate crops. They use sustainable food distribution systems and sustainable marketing for agricultural products.
Farm workers have policies to protect them, are treated with respect, and paid a living wage.
Many farms choose to obtain a third party certification, and many dare to use sustainable practices that go above and beyond certification requirements.