The Ecological and Socio-Economic Dimensions of Sustainable Agriculture
The 4th Annual CTEC Symposium
October 28th, 2006
Antioch University New England
This symposium will bring together farmers, activists, educators and conservation biologists in an atmosphere of communication and strategy building. We will focus on ways in which agricultural systems can benefit both human and non-human ecological communities while remaining economically viable for farmers and ranchers.
As Earth’s ecosystems become rapidly degraded, we must look beyond protected areas as the sole means by which we conserve the planet’s biodiversity. Agricultural systems represent a huge percentage of the human-modified landscape throughout the world. In the past few decades a trend of intensive farming with vast monocultures and substantial chemical use has become the precedent.
Rapid human population growth and the need for increased food production are among the many drivers of this trend. Increasingly, however, politicians, scientists and the general public are developing an awareness of the ecologically and culturally destructive nature of such intensive agricultural practices. In response, new initiatives are forming which take on a more holistic approach to ranching and farming. This new trend, referred to broadly as “sustainable agriculture” could be utilized as a powerful tool for the protection of global biodiversity.
Well-managed agricultural systems can provide many ecosystem services including: soil stabilization, water filtration, nutrient cycling, carbon-sequestration, provision of habitat for native species and a reduction of edge effects in forest fragments. Practices such as intercropping, no-till farming, non-chemical “green” mulching, long fallows, windbreaks between fields, and establishment of riparian/wetland buffer zones, are a few ways in which agricultural systems can be more ecologically friendly.
Economically, however, this diverse array of strategies may prove unrealistic. This symposium will explore ways of improving, and promoting policies, programs and practices designed to enhance the ecological value of agricultural landscapes while strongly considering the financial challenges faced by responsible farmers and consumers.