By: Kassie Burns
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Agriculture is a dominate industry in the Niagara Region, which is prominently known for its wine sector. In 2016 there were 1,827 farms that spanned 218,251 acres of land across the Region (Niagara Region, 2016). Farming provides an extensive source of economic income, with the area in the Region generating a totaled $838.1 million in revenue (Niagara Region, 2016). However, with global population on the rise, it is estimated we will need to increase food production by 70% in the next 30 years to ensure there is enough food for everyone and to limit food insecurity (ECO Canada, 2022). Considering this severe projection and the consequences of current agricultural practices, more sustainable farming methods will be required.
Sustainable agriculture incorporates social, environmental, and economic interests. It strives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, increase biodiversity, and promote soil health (ECO Canada, 2022). These practices can bring communities out of poverty and provide an enhanced quality of life for farming families. Reducing the use of pesticides, planting hedgerows along field edges, and planting cover crops or implementing crop rotation are all methods to promote sustainable agriculture. These methods are sometimes referred to as Agroecology, which is the name of techniques that minimize environmental impact when farming (ECO Canada, 2022). Additional benefits can arise when consideration is given to biodiversity of crops and other vegetation that can help promote crop growth and prevent pests or disease. Organic farming practices are most optimal as they do not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, which can have devastating impacts on the environment (ECO Canada, 2022).
However, there are several challenges that come with creating transformative change within sustainable agriculture practices. It is not easy to simply switch to new customs that may be more sustainable. There are always risks associated when any sort of change is brought into action to affect crop growth, and when an annual salary depends on the viability of crop production in one summer period, the associated risk can be overwhelming and discourage changes in practice. Although numerous studies have shown that many of the methods mentioned above create positive changes for both a farmer’s income and the health of the environment, there are also risks (Isaac et al., 2021). For example, not using pesticides may result in damaged crops due to increased pests, and therefore, a farmer may experience a smaller yield of crops, which could put their livelihood in jeopardy. An additional challenge that exists includes finding the funds to make these sustainable changes, if funding is not easily available. Given these important considerations, it can be difficult for farmers to adopt more sustainable agriculture practices.
Despite these challenges, an increasing awareness of the need to adopt sustainable agriculture practices are being recognized, and more and more farmers are willing to make the necessary changes to ensure our planet and small-scale farms are regarded with high priority. More groups and government funding opportunities have been formulated in recent years, such as the Organic Council of Ontario (OCO), which to helps establish a better future for farming in the province. With growing awareness of this topic and stronger financial support for farmers, a more sustainable future for the agricultural industry is possible!
ECO Canada. (2022). What is sustainable agriculture? Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://eco.ca/blog/what-is-sustainable-agriculture/
Isaac, M. E., Nyantakyi-Frimpong, H., Matous, P., Dawoe, E., & Anglaaere, L. C. N. (2021). Farmer networks and agrobiodiversity interventions: the unintended outcomes of intended change. Ecology and Society, 26(4), 12–. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-12734-260412
Niagara Region. (2016). Niagara Agriculture Profile. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.niagararegion.ca/living/ap/pdf/niagara-agricultural-profile.pdf