As with many other industries, agriculture is a source of greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike many other contributors, it is a vital aspect of our daily lives. According to one survey, half of all Canadians feel that it’s important that our food is produced sustainably, and farmers agree. Here are four ways farmers are incorporating sustainability into their operations.
Water is a precious resource, but growing crops or raising livestock can require large amounts of it. Many farmers are using innovative ways to reduce the amount of water they consume. Crop genetics can play a huge part in this as researchers develop more drought tolerant and pest-resistant crops. In greenhouse food production, drip irrigation is used routinely. Drip irrigation conservatively directs small amounts of water to the roots, reducing water consumption.
Hedgerows or tree lines – wild areas with bushes, trees and other vegetation – have long been used on farms to mark land boundaries and corral livestock. But they’re increasingly seen as vital habitat for wide-ranging wildlife to move between larger tracts of forest. Plus, they provide shelter for birds who feed on large numbers of insects, reducing the need for pesticides.
Farms in general often include expanses of local native forests and wetlands which provide habitat and food for local wildlife and support biodiversity in the area. That’s why many conservation organizations are providing guidance and financial assistance for farmers to expand their networks of hedgerows.
Regenerative farming/soil management
Soil is at the heart of farming operations, and good soil quality is vital. Farmers have been implementing practices such as using organic matter and cover crops (such as alfalfa and clover), as well as no tilling, to help retain soil moisture and protect it from wind and erosion. This helps maintain soil quality and also increases biodiversity.
With rising energy costs, it makes financial and environmental sense to invest in green energy. In Canada, more than 100 years ago, farmers used windmills or water to operate mills to grind grains and flour, and now, farmers are increasingly turning to clean energy technology like solar, wind, biodigestion and geothermal technologies. Burnbrae Farms, a Canadian egg producer, has invested in two solar-powered properties in Ontario: a farm in Woodstock with low-energy lighting and high-efficiency motors and ventilation systems, and a solar field in Lyn. The company’s newest egg products are both produced on its solar-powered farm, making them among the most energy-efficiently produced eggs in Canada.
Learn more about sustainable farming practices at burnbraefarms.com