Farm Living

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Charles Krout

11/04/2012

Environment

Farm Living: It’s not the life for me!

In a healthy farm system, agriculture works in harmony with the natural

environment. This begins with healthy soil that stores water and nutrients and provides a

stable base to support plant roots. In a sustainable system, soil is kept in balance. Crops

are rotated through the fields to replace nutrients in the soil. Where there is livestock,

animals graze the land, then waste from those animals is used to fertilize the soil. The

idea is that as farmers take from the land they also give back. Industrial farms disregard

that need for balance. Land is used continuously and not given proper rest. Crops are not

rotated in a way that replenishes the soil. Manure and chemical fertilizers are used to

“feed” the soil, but through over-application these additives become a problem.

Manure carries with it other substances that are used on industrial farms. These

include antibiotics and artificial growth hormones, which contaminate waterways and

affect the plants and animals that live in them according to Salt, a common component of

manure from industrial dairies, can damage soil quality and contributes to erosion.

Nutrients and heavy metals present in animal feed are also excreted by livestock, and so

end up being applied to cropland. These include zinc, copper, chromium, arsenic,

cadmium and even lead. In balanced amounts, some of these elements can be good for

soil and promote plant growth. But as factory farms over-apply manure to fields, a

significant quantity of nutrients builds up in the soil and can actually reduce the soil’s

fertility. This damage is difficult to reverse, and ultimately puts fertile cropland out of

use.

By using farming techniques such as crop rotation, conservation tillage, raising

animals on pasture and natural fertilization, sustainable farmers produce food without...
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