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Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture and Farm Size

The goals of sustainable agriculture—profit, stewardship, and quality of life—apply to farms and ranches of all sizes and types. However the methods and practices that best meet these goals may differ considerably from small enterprises to large, or from one type to another.

There are many examples of large farms and ranches that use innovative methods to achieve sustainability (see Farm and Ranch Profiles), and of research, education, and extension projects relevant to farms of all sizes (see SARE Projects).

Sustainable agriculture is particularly beneficial to small and medium-sized farms for several reasons

  • Sustainable agriculture emphasizes methods that take advantage of on-farm resources and natural biological cycles and controls. Such methods are often more affordable to smaller and limited-resource farmers than are more capital-intensive methods.
  • Some of the marketing methods often associated with sustainable agriculture—which link producers to consumers and return a larger share of the consumer dollar to farmers—are very practical and lucrative for smaller farmers.
  • Farm size, scale, and type of organization all have implications for the surrounding community, affecting the “quality of life” goal of sustainability.

For more information on NIFA activities for small farms and ranches, see the Small Farms program page.

Back to Sustainable Agriculture Home Page