Farming has impacts. As much as we might like to pretend that agriculture can exist in a perfectly natural state, that simply cannot happen. Growing crops is not natural. We change our environment to favor a small number of species that are particularly useful to us. This is the essence of agriculture, whether large or small, “conventional” or “organic.” I know that this is an uncomfortable idea for some people, but it is the plain truth.
Impacts are inevitable, but they can be positive as well as negative. These days we are quick to think about negative impacts: habitat loss for wild species, pollution, water use… the list goes on. We occasionally need to be reminded of the positive impacts. Most notable among these are food production and employment, although those should be obvious to anyone who works or eats.
There is plenty of debate about the “right” way to farm. High yield? Local? Organic? GMO free? What does good look like? In my view, good agricultural stewardship is a simple question of impacts.
A good farm minimizes negative impacts, and contains them to the farm.
A good farm maximizes positive impacts, and extends them beyond the farm.
As simple as it is, that’s my formula… any farm that meets this test, regardless of size, location, cultural practices, or business model is a good farm in my book.