Today is Earth Day and Solutions from the Land is proud to use this special occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of our growing network of farmer, rancher and forester leaders who work every day to improve the sustainability of their operations and the environment. For them, their life work is not an either/or proposition. It’s a both/and approach to 21st century agriculture. Thanks to their uncommon collaboration, indigenous knowledge, experimental learning, entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and technology, these leaders are showing the way forward in producing not just food, feed, fiber and fuel, but a whole host of ecosystem services that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) frames as better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.
Look no further than the Delmarva Peninsula, where producers involved in the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge are bringing diverse interests together for dialogue and action in support of healthy and productive ecosystems, farming and poultry. Or look to Florida Climate Smart Agriculture, where progressive agriculture and forestry leaders are using artificial intelligence and monitoring to document environmental improvements that can be rewarded with payments they can receive for ecosystem services they deliver.
Travel west to see how Iowa Climate Smart Agriculture leaders are challenging producers to do more and do better in how they secure and sustain agricultural productivity, enhance soil and water resources, ensure ecosystem integrity, and find profitable solutions in the face of today’s known challenges, not to mention the unexpected ones that tomorrow will bring. Their goal is to replace the “take resources, make, and dispose” strategy with circular “make, use, and recycle” processes that offer profitable solutions for managing input costs and gaining income from wastes that otherwise might be lost income or sources of harm to the system.
Yet another example of innovative pathways to sustainable agriculture and a better environment can be found in Ohio, where Climate Smart Agriculture leaders are advancing a style of farming and a food system that benefits producers, consumers, the public and the planet. Their vision is to boost profitability for farmers at all scales and in all settings, rural and urban, while improving environmental resilience, building strong communities, engaging consumers, and ensuring public health and access to nutritious food.
The ideals advocated on Earth Day align well with SfL’s 21st Century Agriculture Renaissance vision and recommendations, which SfL Co-Chair AG Kawamura detailed earlier this week in a special presentation he made at an information gathering session held by FAO Director General QU Dongyu and staged by the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN).
Working both domestically and internationally, SfL puts a special focus on sharing with stakeholders how best to reach many of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to curb climate change, eliminate hunger, restore water quality and promote inexpensive, clean energy, among other far-reaching objectives.
The new business model for today’s agricultural sector that SfL leaders promote is less government-centric and is grounded in multi-stakeholder partnerships that just don’t talk about challenges but do real work to address them. It has multipurposed and often integrated objectives, and it incorporates landscape-scale planning and implementation.
Other routes to the renaissance include the harmonization of policy frameworks and rewarding, via incentive payments, the stewardship of ecosystem services; energizing and coordinating research; and transforming and modernizing information networks to better share production data across the entire sector.
SfL’s approach to the sustainable business of agriculture is supported by a strong set of guiding principles developed to insure that farmers be at the center of all discussions and decision-making. The principles, which assert that findings must be science-based, but in conjunction with farmers’ experiential knowledge as well, also recognize that there is no silver-bullet solution for improving the environment and enhancing the resilience of agriculture.
In celebrating Earth Day, we invite all who strive to achieve the same outcomes to join the agricultural renaissance that is underway. Together we can create a new 21st century agriculture; one where sustainably managed farms, ranches and forests deliver a wide range of goods and services that improve the environment and the livelihoods of all.