The push to “go green” touches every area of our lives, from EPA fuel economy rules to the ban on 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. But where does sustainability matter most? It matters on our farms, in our grocery stores and at our dinner tables. For all the talk about climate change, energy savings, reusing hotel towels or recycling, the most important sustainability topics involve food production. That’s because food is a close third behind air and water in keeping everyone alive.
Most people know where food comes from — farms, but not everyone understands how long and how hard my fellow producers and I have been working to farm sustainably. For many of us, sustainability mattered decades before it became a popular business and marketing topic.
That’s because farmers want to meet their family’s needs today in a way that leaves their kids with a brighter future. For farm families that means protecting soil, water and air, reducing energy use and finding ways to feed more people.
We use sustainable farming methods to ensure a steady supply of safe food and renewable fuels. However, meeting these challenges requires careful consideration of the choices we make on our farm. For example, adding nutrients to the soil helps us ensure we produce healthy crops, now we know that nutrients that leave the farm may cause problems downstream. For use to be successful, we have to see both sides of the story and work hard to find the right balance for everyone.
Sustainability also means building a long-term economically viable industry, so we can earn a fair return and keep producing food. More importantly, we farm to improve the social economic well-being of our local and global communities. It also means working together with commodity groups like the Illinois Soybean Association.
These days it seems that everyone is trying to define sustainability, but if you want a good definition, ask a farmer. You can count on farmers to make sustainability mean more than miles per gallon or light bulb restrictions. And you can enjoy the outcome when you dig into your next family meal or grab a snack at the drive-through window.
We will continue to farm sustainably because it’s the right thing to do — protecting our resources while we work to keep everyone fed. For us, farming is not just a serious commitment, it’s the best job on earth.