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
By using farming techniques such as crop rotation, conservation tillage, raising
animals on pasture and natural fertilization, sustainable farmers produce food without...