This website is intended to provide sustainable agriculture information and resources for agricultural educators and service providers.

Three definitions of sustainable agriculture:

The metaphor:

Imagine a 3-legged stool. What happens if one of the legs breaks, or one leg is missing entirely? The whole stool falls over. The 3-legged stool has become a metaphor for sustainable agriculture, which gives equal attention to the economic, environmental, and social impacts of agriculture (the three legs).  Another metaphor that is now commonly used is that of the “triple bottom line,” an accounting that looks at environmental and social impacts of human actions as well as monetary profit and loss.

The legal definition:

“an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”

From the 1990 “Farm Bill,” Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA), Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603

The epigram:

A sustainable agriculture must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Paraphrased from the discussion of sustainable development in “Our Common Future,” the 1987 United Nations Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development.  

For a comprehensive discussion of definitions of sustainable agriculture and related terms see the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center website  http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/terms/srb9902.shtml .