The world is so confused about sustainability and what it really takes to deliver it

I have been meaning to write a blog post about the proliferation of the ongoing growth of what I call little golden booking farming mentality. This week I was spurned into action when a colleague emailed me this link. As you can see the dairy industry isn’t the only one on their radar. They also comment on the beef, fish industries et al under the Hungry for Info tab.

Its a beautiful website, obviously started by some very passionate people doing some great things.  This initiative also has some very credible people backing it as do a number of people who promote similar farming enterprises. I have no problem at all with people who want to farm using philosophies od producing less and being paid more but I want to use this post to debunk some of the often very naive thinking that underpins this ethos and makes me really cranky by promoting it by deriding large scale farming practices

Lets start with sustainable intensification which underpins Clover Hill Dairies farming practices.

Sustainable intensification is having a farming system committed to producing more food on the same amount of land ( or less land) using natural resources wisely,creating as little waste as possible and reusing or recycling that waste when you can. Essentially it is having the most efficient farm system you possibly can in your circumstances  Like it or not sustainable intensification (producing more with less resources) IS the best farming practice for reducing farming’s carbon footprint on the planet.

Ensuring that it is a good outcome for animals relies not on the concept but the people in the business. To get the best outcomes for animals everyone in the system from management to staff have to be totally committed to best practice animal husbandry and  care.  And yes having been there done that you have to be very dedicated indeed to closing the loop to get the best outcomes for the environment. BTW I am confident from what I have seen the majority of farmers are

IMG_3411

‘Clover Hill’s message… intensified farming and the environment can happily coexist .. leaving an impression of farming as consumers would like it to be: productive, environmentally sustainable and picturesque’. Matt Cawood The Land

The reasons sustainable farming delivers the best outcomes for the planet are explained very well  by Jude Capper in my post on Little Golden Book farming.

Explaining it is not always easy and I recently gave a presentation to the Young Farming Champions to start the conversation and workshop sustainable farming concepts with the help of one of Australia’s leading marketing gurus to enable the team to clearly and simply share what it takes to farm as efficiently as possible in the 21st century with school students

Here it is my presentation

Slide2

Sustainability definition from the heart

Slide1

Triple bottom line

Slide3

My favourite triple bottom line definition

Slide4

This slide is from the marketing guru’s presentation – suggesting we replace responsive with proactive

Slide11

Australian farmers are sustainable farming trailblazers. They are very successfully doing what every person on  the planet should be doing ie ‘ doing more with less’

Slide10

For farmers MORE means producing more food and fibre. Less means using less natural resources

Why is this so important

Slide12

Because we only have one planet and our natural resources are shrinking. Scaringly on the opposite end of the spectrum 158 more mouths to feed are born every minute. 154 of them in developing countries

Slide13

In 2010 globally we are consuming enough resources for one and a half planets. In Australia we are chewing up the equivalent of resources for two planets.

It is obvious this NOT sustainable and as this excellent slide (courtesy of Rabobank) clearly show we need to rapidly reduce out use of natural resources

Why are Aussie farmers leading the way –  FYI these stats are via NFF see here

Slide14

In 1950 when cars looked like this and farmers drove tractors like this I Australian farmer fed 20 people

Slide15

In 1970 when cars looked like this and farmers drove tractors like this 1 Australian farmer fed 200 people

Slide16

In 2014 when cars look like this and farmers have technology that drives tractors 1 Australian farmer feeds 600 people (Note 1 American farmer feeds 170 people)

Yet there are a growing number of people like Sustainable Table that truly believe ( sadly ) that we can feed the world by farming like we did in the 50’s. As I said earlier I have no problem at all with people choosing to farm in this way ( would love to give it a go myself)  and there is definitely a demographic of people who can afford to pay top dollar ( and so they should ) for produce grown this way

But we cannot feed the world by everyone farming this way. We just don’t have enough land, water and energy and I implore the people backing little golden book initiatives and farming practices to STOP telling people you can. Its wrong and its dangerous

People have every right to ask questions about the technology and science that allows our farmers to feed 600 people. All I ask is that you make sure you are fully informed and not basing your decisions on emotion alone

Technology and science mean large scale farmers can

  1. Grow more crop on less land
  2. Get more crop per drop of water
  3. More Kg of beef per beast
  4. More kg of wool per sheep
  5. More pasture per hectare
  6. Graze more cows per hectare
  7. Produce more milk per cow
  8. Use less fertilizer per crop
  9. Use less pesticide per crop
  10. Less water per litre of milk

All of these outcomes are good for the planet.Slide17

The majority of farmers producing more with less is the only road to sustainability. Note I say majority. There a lots of boutique farmers doing a great job under the ‘produce less and be paid’ more model for people who are prepared to pay more for food produced in a way that meets their values and I salute them.

However there are a lot of misconceptions out there about large scale commercial agriculture. But it is the hero and it should be celebrated. The majority of family farmers in this country grow food and fibre for the commodity market so that Australians from all economic backgrounds have the opportunity to afford it

I readily admit large scale agriculture has a lot of work to do to ensure the community is informed and comfortable with modern farming practices. May we always refrain from promoting what we do by deriding other farming practices,

Lets start by throwing our support behind all the wonderful Australian farmers using diverse farming systems, small and big who wake up every day looking for ways to do it better

BTW

Interesting recent article here asking the question How Long Do We Have Until We Exhaust All Of Our Resources? and very very worryingly coming up with the answer just a few decades.

Some further thoughts from Jude Capper Beef is killing the Planet and Elvis is Riding a Rainbow Belching Unicorn 

and I love and applaud this speech from President Obama on Climate Change

Lets not forget we need to be equally committed to reducing food waste and Sustainable Table is doing an awesome job promoting this ethos See here    

.

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

4 thoughts on “The world is so confused about sustainability and what it really takes to deliver it”

  1. Your message, links and info presented in this post really hit the spot Lynne – I took plenty of snippets to Twitter – thank you – & though I couldn’t always fit the source into the 140 characters, the messages got out. Thank you for sharing. Also for Dr Jude Capper’s info & quotes in your ‘Little Golden Book’ blog – absolutely spot on – time to celebrate commercial, sustainable, technological food production! Proud to be a producer!

Comments are closed.