I must admit I have never liked the term sustainable agriculture since
its inception due I guess to what seemed to be a bit of an easy way
out for academics and government people to accept organic farming type
practices. Organic farming has all the wrong connetations for
researchers and government advisers but sustainable agriculture was
The problem is that definitions are often provided that suit the end
purpose of that authority or that scientist. There are as many
definitions of sustainable agriculture as there are of organic
farming. Some quite complex and all- encompassing, others brief but
encapsulating the real heart of what we mean. The definition provided
by Wendall Berry perhaps says it all....sustainable agriculture is
one that does not deplete soils or people.
In relation to indicators that might assist us in looking at the
sustainability of properties the following criteria was used by myself
in an action research project in examining the sustainability of a
certified organic farm:
2. Soil resource
4. Biotic factors
5. System level indicators
6. Pest & weed control
7. Economic viability
8. Social & cultural
These key indicators had many sub indicators to give data that might
provide an indication of the sustainability of that property. The
study by no means was complete and much future work will be required
to give even better information. The farm did stack up well however
using these indicators.
If anyone was intersted in this paper I could forward it to them.
Some more food for thought.
I continue to stress in Australia that certified organic farms are
the only production systems that operating under a strict code of
ethics(standards) can lead to a sustainable agricultural system.
Annual re-inspections ensure that correct management practices are
being followed. What other agricultural system can provide this
Sorry for the length of this note,
Organic Advisory Service
Organica Retailers & Growers Association of Australia