Examining Sustainable Practice Categories

This post is the result of agricultural sustainability research paired with on-farm interviews conducted by The Clark Group, LLC with 12 farms utilizing these practices.  We hope this information can help begin the process of identifying sustainable practices for several key agricultural commodities, and help lead to a system that allows consumers to be connected to products containing these sustainably grown ingredients.

Sustainable Practices Overview

The common elements found among all the farm interviews were a focus on precise application of inputs (things like seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, and water) and the use of technology to maximize yield and livestock weight with far fewer resources than were needed in the past.  The adoption of a holistic systems-based sustainability approach ensures the ability to pass on the operation for generations to come.  Below is a chart summarizing the sustainable practice categories that were investigated followed by upcoming posts that dive into a more detailed discussion of each category.

Land Care Efficient & Humane Livestock Production
  • Applying conservation tillage or no-till where possible
  • Utilizing buffer strips in wetter areas
  • Planting cover crops to help condition soil and prevent erosion
  • Using a crop rotation schedule and other practices to enhance soil organic content and improve or maintain soil fertility
  • Participating in the Conservation Reserve Program or independently applying conservation measures to enhance biodiversity and create wildlife habitat
  • Minimizing the time and resources needed for livestock to reach end weight
  • Incorporating superior genetic qualities into the livestock herd through better breeding choices
  • Reducing animal stress to increase weight gain efficiency
  • Using a balanced approach of pasture and grain feed to maximize nutrition, taste and minimize environmental impact
  • Using feed additives to improve animal health and weight gain
  • Managing manure as a resource rather than a waste 
Precise Application of Inputs Caring for People & Community
  • Use of GPS tractors with “auto-steer” capabilities
  • Use of variable rate fertilizer and chemical applications to target and limit amounts used
  • Use of irrigation sensors that alert the farmer if the system is broken
  • Applying the right kind of irrigation system for the job
  • Investing in superior and precise genetic traits that enable greater yield maximization with minimal inputs
  • Pairing precision with intensification to increase overall efficiency
  • Donations to local community in cash and service
  • Employing a “buy local” policy when possible
  • Providing high quality jobs with benefits such as work vehicles, health care and housing
  • Scholarship programs for local students and/or children of employees
  • Providing a share of the harvest for employees




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