A variety of thoughts may arise when the words “sustainable agriculture” are brought up during conversation or in the news. Maybe you think about organic food, farmers markets or even the flowers plotted in your window sill. But what is sustainable agriculture?
First, let’s break down the two words. The word “sustain” can take on different meanings depending on the context. For means of sustainable agriculture, sustainability means that we meet current needs without diminishing the ability for future generations to meet their own needs. (https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/about-us/what- is-sustainability/) Agriculture is the science and practice of providing food and products through crops and animals, or farming. Together, these words mean that the practice of farming is sustainable and will not compromise the generations that come after us.
Why does it matter?
Sustainable agriculture is an important piece of the environmental puzzle. We are slowly seeing the effects of global warming, due mostly to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are destroying our atmosphere. A few degrees in average temperature change might not seem like a pressing issue. As someone who grew up in Minnesota, I can tell you that I USUALLY welcome any extra degrees I can get on just about any given day. Unfortunately, there are some harsh effects of global warming. Even if we don’t think they are affecting us now, generations soon after us will have to deal with the consequences of our lifestyle.
Some effects of global warming include: melting glaciers and early snow melts resulting in rising sea levels, increased flooding, disruption of some natural habitats for animals possibly leading to extinction of some species, and more allergy and disease outbreaks due to increased growth of rag-weed and air pollution. (https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-warming- 101)
How does UMD Dining promote sustainability?
The University of Maryland Dining Services utilizes the Terp Farm so food and flowers for the dining hall and the campus farmers market can be grown locally and sustainably. One way the farm utilizes sustainable practices is by rotating the location of crops. If a specific crop is planted in the same place year after year, it uses up the same nutrients in the soil and eventually that soil will need to be replaced with an alternative. Pests also tend to thrive in an environment where the same plant is being grown year after year, so it is important to switch it up. (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-is- crop-rotation- important)
Reducing food waste and other things when eating, such as disposable napkins and utensils are important parts to a sustainable dining experience. However, we often forget that sustainable practices start at the root of food: the farm. By growing sustainable foods, the Terp Farm and UMD Dining Services are doing their part to help the environment by reducing their carbon and water footprint for a better planet.
Julia Dugas, Dietetic Intern