The world has gone through many recent changes and will forever need reevaluation and restructuring of the systems in place. The pandemic specifically has altered our healthcare system as we know it in drastic ways. The realization that inequalities across a lot of sectors in life has shifted peoples’ focus on what is important to them and why. This natural scene of change which we as a world have stepped into is a perfect segue into the conversation of what sustainability means to us.
There are many inputs which build up the larger idea of sustainability spanning across environmental health, economic vitality, and social equity. If we want to see real change move across the world, each pillar of sustainability needs to be addressed in varying ecosystems. The changes in large industry and shifts in local government are helpful but it is so important to have a good foundation to build upon. This starts at the individual level. Evaluating where money goes to, and education on sustainable practices will open the door to possibilities of change. We are stronger in numbers and multiple small personal changes will ultimately create a threshold for improving other systems. The local scale is truly where sustainability can begin taking control of these ecosystems specifically food and farming.
Large scale agriculture is shifting its focus because the system is collapsing. It was not built to last because current agriculture practices waste and degrade the resources. There is a transformation happening on farms across the United States creating room for diversity in foods, fuels used for farming, and regional marketing. The Union of Concerned Scientists has been listening to the latest data, and shown how agroecological practices can support profitable farms of different sizes while outperforming the conventional systems in profit and yield. This is certainly a step in the right direction towards shifting investments while working with nature rather than against it. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture strives to outline a general idea of the multi-pronged goal which sustainable agriculture emulates.
The South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico has been a focal point of agriculture in the state for generations. On four acres of occupied Tiwa land, there lies Chispas Farm. Established in 2001 and run by the head farmer Casey Holland since 2017 the farm has seen many changes. Casey is a dedicated professional who is striving to keep the farm on a regenerative and sustainable closed loop cycle. By implementing no-till agricultural practices, the farm makes soil health the number one priority. This soil mindset keeps temperatures down and retains water for the system. Keeping this ideal system of ‘ground-up farming’ is essential to sustainable development. Adequate crop rotation and planting lots of flowers for beneficial insects are ways that the farm can stay in the state level organic certification program. These practices are implemented to account for environmental health but let’s not forget about societal impacts or the economic vitality of the farm.
It is a process to become recognized as an Organic Farmer, but even more of a challenge to be recognized by the community as a viable option for food. When speaking with Casey, there was much conversation about ways to create a sense of community on and around the farm. One way that the farm can gain the local touch is by participating as a registered CSA. Being able to have subscribers which redeem shares of the farm’s yield is a great community building tool. Joining a CSA offers great opportunities to attend community events, to get to know farmers and where the food comes from, as well as volunteer on the farm. Chispas also has a farm stand during the season which allows fresh produce to be purchased directly from the farmers. They accept all forms of payment and have found ways to discount produce through CSA programs including: EBT/SNAP. These tools help showcase social equality while creating manageable access to fresh and local food.
Purchase food from local farms where you can see the produce leave the ground and enter your kitchen. These small-scale operations require income to sustain their position in the economy. Farms like Chispas are often seem like a hidden oasis where the knowledge of where they are, is as valuable as the bounties it provides. These resources are not out of reach and reasonably priced despite the dominant nature of industrial agriculture. Look into Chispas and other farmers value-added producers in the area to see how you can get involved. As consumers we all have a choice. A choice to place our money into systems that close the loop of sustainability. For recent news and upcoming events, please refer to the UNM Sustainability Studies Program. To learn more please check ABQ Stew blog page.
-Posted by Caleb