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Sustainable agriculture: It’s about your kids’ kids’ kidsSustainable agriculture: It’s about your kids’ kids’ kids

A North Dakota Extension specialist explains sustainable agriculture in a new way.

September 12, 2016

2 Min Read

I usually sigh and roll my eyes when I hear the phrase “sustainable agriculture.”

There they go again, I think.

The phrase “sustainable agriculture” has been so overused. Corrupted even. To some it is a marketing pitch for organic products. But organic proponents, who probably have never set a foot in a plowed field, ignore the impact tillage has on soil health. The nation’s farms were all virtually organic in the 1930s, and look what happened. We almost lost the ability to feed ourselves during the Dust Bowl.


To some farmers who use herbicides and insecticides and farm with big equipment, sustainability means their profitability first and everything else after that. They’re not right either. Their own profitability isn’t the only thing that matters in this world. No business can completely ignore its impact on its neighbors and the environment.

Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist at the Southwest Research and Extension Center in Dickinson, N.D., made me think about sustainable agriculture in a new way recently.

In one of his columns, he wrote:

“Our children born today may have our grandchildren in 2041. Our grandchildren may have our great-grandchildren in 2066. And our great-grandchildren may have our great-great-grandchildren in 2091. As distant as it sounds, the birth of our great-great-great-grandchildren will occur early in the next century, 100 years from today.

“We can agree: Our children are the future. A few of us might actually still be here, enjoying beef. Most certainly, some of our children and grandchildren, many of our great-grandchildren and almost all of our great-great-grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren will be here.

“Our decisions today are for those who come after us. We need to get it right.”

That’s sustainable agriculture.

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