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Devon Point Farm and Sustainable Agriculture: an essay by Apprentice, Laura Fisher

Posted 6/28/2011 10:37pm by Laura Fisher, Apprentice.

Devon Point Farm and Sustainable Agriculture
an essay by Apprentice, Laura Fisher

At Devon Point Farm, apprentices are doing more than just learning the mechanics of farming. Apprentices are exposed to the inner workings of the farm and are taught how to make a farm not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. Whether while weeding and planting together, or having dinner-table discussions, we have open dialogues about different issues relating to farming on a daily basis. This summer we hope to share some thoughts with you through a series of essays written by Devon Point Farm apprentices.

Environmental sustainability has gained increasing attention over the past decade, with an opportunity around every corner to “go green.” For consumers who do care about the earth and their footprint upon it, it can be difficult to navigate the landscape of ecological living and all the choices that must be made on a day-to-day basis. The food we eat is one of the critical choices that we have regarding our impact on the environment, with 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions coming from agriculture. By supporting farms that practice sustainable agriculture methods such as Devon Point Farm, you can rest assured that the food you get on a weekly basis is healthy both for your family and for our planet.

 

While agriculture has changed dramatically, especially since the end of World War II, sustainable agriculture is an adherence to time-honored farming traditions, developed over thousands of years to feed our people in a healthy and sustainable way. Sustainable agriculture helps restore balance to our ecosystem, giving back wherever it takes to conserve resources and minimize environmental damage. It accomplishes that goal through the following methods and principles.

 

On an industrial farm, pollutants are emitted in large quantities on a regular basis. Mismanagement of animal waste and overuse of machinery leads to air pollution on both the farm and the communities around it, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides runoff the land to contaminate both drinking water as well as fish habitats. In a healthy farm system such as Devon Point Farm, there are no synthetic chemicals sprayed on the crops. Additionally, machinery is used on a much smaller scale basis, with much of the labor done by hand. Animal waste is also managed carefully in order to avoid pollution as much as possible and to utilize its ability to fertilize the land naturally. If you look into the distance at Devon Point Farm, you’re likely to see cattle grazing in the fields. By allowing our cows to range freely and eat grass, we are taking the nutrients from the land and putting them right back into our fields. In that way, we reduce our waste, maintain the fertility of our land, and keep our cows happy!

 

Sustainable farms use many other methods to reduce the risk of depleting the soil, making it possible to keep up productivity levels without relying on synthetic fertilizers. Crop rotation involves moving families of crops from field to field each year, often putting one field to “rest” occasionally to allow it to recover. Each crop has different fertilizer requirements, and by changing the location you can reduce the risk of stripping the soil of specific nutrients. Additionally, crop rotation is an easy and natural way to reduce insects and diseases by removing the host plant. All this healthy soil means that the land remains in production for longer with no reliance on chemical inputs!

 

Another important facet of sustainable farming is the harmony between the farm and the environment that surrounds it. A truly sustainable farm should function as a nature reserve – by existing in a balance with nature, sustainable farms serve as homes to a variety of insects, birds, and wild animals. Sustainable agriculture also maintains biotic diversity through the planting of many varieties of crops and staying away from genetic engineered seeds and crops.

 

Sustainability is the capacity of an ecosystem to renew itself. We must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same through conservation of natural resources and stewardship of our land. Through ecological management and time-honored farming principles, small organic farms like Devon Point Farm contribute to both local and global environmental health. Without economic viability, however, there can be no environmental sustainability. By supporting a sustainable farming system through membership in CSA’s and providing community support for local farms, consumers play a critical role in ensuring both the nutritional and environmental quality of the food they eat – a choice that is as virtuous as it is delicious!

 

About Apprentice, Laura Fisher...

         
Laura Fisher just finished her Master's Degree at NYU in environmental conservation education, with a concentration in sustainable food systems and urban agriculture. She previously worked with 'Green Guerillas' a non-profit community group that uses a mix of education, advocacy, and organizing to help people cultivate and sustain community gardens. In addition, Laura has interned at the NY Coalition of Healthy School Food, has taught English as a second language in both the Galapagos and in Ecuador. Her hobbies include reading, cooking, hiking, and horseback riding.