Farm and Ranch Practices
Farmers and ranchers can choose many ways
to improve their sustainability, and these
vary from region to region, state to state
and farm to farm. However, some common sets
of practices have emerged, many of them aimed
at greater use of on-farm or local resources.
Some of those practices are described here,
each contributing in some way to long-term
farm profitability, environmental stewardship
and improved quality of life.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
IPM is an approach to managing pests by
combining biological, cultural, physical,
and chemical tools in ways that minimize
economic, health and environmental risks.
Management-intensive grazing systems take
animals out of the barn and into the pasture
to provide high-quality forage and reduced
feed costs while avoiding manure buildup.
Many soil conservation methods, including
strip cropping, reduced tillage, and no-till,
help prevent loss of soil caused by wind
and water erosion.
Water conservation and protection have
become important parts of agricultural stewardship.
Practices such as planting riparian buffer
strips can improve the quality of drinking
and surface water, as well as protect wetlands.
Growing plants such as rye, clover, or
vetch after harvesting a grain or vegetable
crop or intercropping them can provide several
benefits, including weed suppression, erosion
control, and improved soil nutrients and
Growing a greater variety of crops and
livestock on a farm can help reduce risks
from extremes in weather, market conditions,
or pests. Increased diversity of crops and
other plants, such as trees and shrubs, also
can contribute to soil conservation, wildlife
habitat, and increased populations of beneficial
Proper management of manure, nitrogen,
and other plant nutrients can improve the
soil and protect the environment. Increased
use of on-farm nutrient sources, such as
manure and leguminous cover crops, also reduces
purchased fertilizer costs.
Agroforestry covers a range of tree uses
on farms, including inter-planting trees
(such as walnuts) with crops or pasture,
growing shade-loving specialty crops in forests,
better managing woodlots and windbreaks,
and using trees and shrubs along streams
as buffer strips.
Farmers and ranchers across the country
are finding that innovative marketing strategies
can improve profits. Direct marketing of
agricultural goods may include selling at
farmers markets, roadside stands, or through
the World Wide Web; delivering to restaurants
and small grocers; and running community-supported
agriculture (CSA) enterprises.
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