One of agriculture’s biggest frustrations is sustainability; not because we aren’t doing it, but because others are defining it for us, says Katie Heger, a farmer serving on American Farm Bureau Federation‘s Dirt on Sustainability panel.
“We have a market that is trying to define what [sustainability] means to us and how we’re supposed to respond to that. Sustainability, really, definitely, 100 percent is different from field to field and farm to farm,” Heger emphasizes.
Generally, agriculture has agreed on three key pillars that define sustainability, says veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Kohtz. It’s about finding the sweet spot between social, environmental, and economical. Most importantly, are the solutions created scientifically based or the results of a Google search? In her own field of dairy cattle, Kohtz says an internet search turned up a suggestion to find out if milk was produced from grazed cattle, but that isn’t sustainable in her location in southern Idaho where grass is scarce certain times of the year.
The answer, according to rancher Josh Geigle, is to be involved in your community. Youth sports or local clubs can bring farmers in contact with people without other ties to the industry. Those opportunities are valuable for the message of sustainability. “We get to share our story of how we are being sustainable in our own way. They’ll ask, is that really sustainable? And we have a chance to explain to them how it is sustainable for us and it might not be for the next guy.”
You can hear the full panel discussion here:AFBF Dirt on Sustainability panel