This week, SfL leaders offered a national audience a vision of solutions farming operations can deliver to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint created by members of the United Nations to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.
The 17 SDGs seek to curb climate change, eliminate hunger, restore water quality and promote inexpensive, clean energy, among other far-reaching goals.
An SfL contingent made up of five farmers shared with others participating in the 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Summit the workings of their own operations as evidence of agriculture’s capability to bring about the changes called for by the SDGs.
Sharing their experiences at the summit were SfL Co-Chairs AG Kawamura, a California grower and shipper, and Fred Yoder, an Ohio wheat and grain farmer; SfL board member Pat O’Toole, who owns and operates a large-scale cattle and sheep operation that straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border and is president of the Family Farm Alliance; and SfL Farmer Envoys Adrienne Mollor, a Massachusetts cranberry operation owner and grower for the Ocean Spray Cooperative; and Trey Hill, who, along with his family, owns a Maryland farm that grows corn, wheat and soybeans.
Addressing grower organization representatives, business and conservation partners, government officials, ranchers and farmers, the SfL leaders offered their respective operations as case studies that demonstrate the benefits agriculture can offer at a landscape scale. They cited their ability to provide economic resilience for their families and communities, and showed how a bottom-up approach to farm innovation fits into a world where agriculture supplies solutions to the SDGs. They further articulated policy directions which could provide pathways to enable these transformational changes.
Intrinsic to the operational experiences being shared by SfL leaders during the summit were themes that underscore the paths that need to be followed to ensure agriculture’s role in efforts to address the world’s multiple challenges, including:
- Farmers need to be at the center of all land management discussions and decisions.
- Farmer-to-farmer learning, in which peers become trusted sources of knowledge, is critically important.
- There is no singular, “silver-bullet” solution to the challenges the world is facing.
- There is a need to take an integrated approach that addresses and solves multiple problems and challenges simultaneously.
- The importance of economic viability cannot be stressed enough. If farms are not profitable, operators will not be able to deliver ecosystem services.
- All solutions must be science based.
- Policies and programs need to be structured to enable outcomes and not prescribe specific ways to farm or ranch.
- A finance mechanism is needed that rewards producers for growing “nutrition” and providing ecosystem services.
A 20-minute video presentation premiered at the Summit on Wednesday and is now available for public viewing. Each producer explains how their operation employs innovative, sustainable practices, including integrated land management systems that produce multiple benefits such as stemming climate change, boosting clean air and water, and enhancing biodiversity. Using their cell phones and their farms and ranches as backdrops, they tell the SfL story and outline how agriculture can be a major pathway to achieving climate and other SDGs.
The video also serves as a preview of a SfL white paper and video case study series set for release in January 2021, that will detail farmer, rancher and forester perspectives on how transformational, systemic change can meet the global mega-challenges articulated by the SDGs. Written by farmers, the report will call for an agricultural renaissance and will outline what farmers need to deliver high value solutions that will improve rural livelihoods and the planet.
The group’s participation in the Sustainable Agriculture Summit shows how farmers can deliver solutions from the land that address food and energy production, economic development, biological diversity and climate change. SfL invites partners to join us and share your ideas and experiences in delivering pragmatic solutions to global challenge.