Today marks the beginning of our Breaking Barriers Series.
The food policy industry is buzzing with professionals who care deeply about academia, food activism and reducing inequality. But in order to fully advance the food justice agenda, we must break down the barrier of seemingly exclusive language. How else can we possibly create the space to openly discuss shortcomings of the food system?
Today marks the beginning of our Breaking Barriers series, wherein we unpack the meaning of the biggest concepts motivating the leaders of the food justice movement. This month, we look at sustainable agriculture.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
In the simplest terms, sustainable agriculture is an end-goal. By pursuing sustainable agriculture, we are working towards a food system that healthily feeds everyone, betters the environment, provides economic security for the farming industry, and benefits society. The entire concept is rooted in the basic premise of sustainability: “we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The U.S. Congress wrote sustainable agriculture into law in the 1990 Farm Bill under the following definition: “the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term—
- satisfy human food and fiber needs;
- enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
- make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
- sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
- enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”
Despite the 1990 Farm Bill, the work towards sustainable agriculture is nowhere near complete. Many communities have been excluded and underserved by the legislation.
How is it relevant to food justice?
Given that sustainable agriculture is aimed at satisfying nutritional needs while also enhancing the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole, sustainable agriculture and food justice are two inseparable outcomes. John Ikerd, a professor of Agricultural Economics at University of Missouri, suggests that food and farming systems which do not ensure equal access to safe, nutritious food are not sustainable because, “sustainability is a question of environmental integrity and economic viability, but sustainability is also a question of social justice.”
As a food justice-oriented organization, TFFJ integrates both sustainability and food justice by not only sourcing fresh produce to food desert communities, but by also teaching future generations about urban farming techniques, healthy lifestyles, and the basic principles of equitable food systems. As we’ve said before, our philosophy is simple: Give someone a meal and you feed him or her for a day. Teach young people to lead a healthy food movement and you can feed a community for a lifetime.
(This article was contributed by TFFJ Intern, Christina Saint-Louis)