16 – Lindsey M.

My name is Lindsey Moran and I am a sophomore Biosystems Engineering student at Michigan State University. I’m from Lake Orion, MI which is about 45 minutes from Detroit! I would love to learn more about the culture in Australia, while experiencing what that region of the world has to offer.

I am passionate about sustainability and believe it is one of the most important concepts. Australia is more progressive in this area than many parts of the world, so I would like to see first-hand what techniques and cultural habits have led to this. I would like to explore this topic from a producer standpoint, as well as a consumer standpoint, as both parties have a substantial say in creating a more sustainable world; specifically, how producer practices are influenced by the dietary selection/demand of the consumer. As consumers become more educated on sustainability and the environmental impacts of their consumption choices, the demand shifts. I would like to see how producers react to these changes in demand, and how ultimately the consumers have the power.

Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. 360(6392), 987-992. doi:10.1126/science.aaq0216

Andersen, K., Kuhn, K., xTrue Naturex (Musical group),, A.U.M. Films & Media (Organization),, & First Spark Media,. (2014). Cowspiracy: The sustainability secret.

I had the opportunity to travel to Australia with a group of twenty-three other students to study sustainable food, social, and environment systems.  I have always taken an interest in dietary choices, and how we, as consumers, may influence change. So, while traveling the country, I took a deeper look into sustainable agriculture systems implemented in Australia, as the country is quite concentrated with these ethical farms.  We visited a variety of ethical farms, and I became more educated on all types of organic agriculture, including biodynamic, ecoganic, and syntropic farming. All of these methods share a common goal—to sustain the land while producing high quality food and leaving a minimal footprint on the environment.  Through lively and nourished soils, sustainable agriculture has the power to exist harmoniously within nature and restructure food production.  

Figure 1: Organic soils are high in organic matter and microbes, which hold the soil together, prevents soil erosion and run-off, and allows for higher water retention. (Mackintosh, 2017)

In the face of climate change, it is important that consumers and producers are making efforts to reduce their footprint. The shift from conventional farming towards organic farming could play a huge part in this movement.  While conventional farming often depletes soil health, it was found that organic farming improves soil health; this results in higher amounts of microbes and organic material within the soil, which creates a more stable environment for crops during times of stress.  As water sources must be preserved, and unexpected climatic changes are becoming a more prevalent concern, it is essential that soils are healthy enough to upkeep the global food supply in times of stress. Organic farming not only encourages healthier air, water, and land, but promotes better animal welfare. Conventional battery cages and constricting pens for livestock, which can deter customers and create negative public relations due to the perceived or legitimate maltreatment, are avoided on organic farms. Rotational grazing systems are frequently used allowing better living conditions for the animals, while avoiding manure build-up and soil degradation. The livestock is not treated with growth hormones or antibiotics, which, aside from increasing the quality of life of the animal, is often more desired by conscious consumers.  

Figure 2: Seen at a market in Sydney, consumer demand of more ethical options has resulted a wide variety of free-range, sustainable eggs.

If organically-produced products are more desired by conscientious consumers, there is the potential for greater profit margins, incentivizing producers to change their traditional practices.  Organic products can be sold for anywhere from 25% to 200% more than its conventional counterpart. The economic return on investment is just another reason for farmers to convert to organic practices; although it is a major advantage, it is often not cited as the driving force behind those that have transitioned.  “The main motivation for us going organic is out of a certain stewardship ethic toward the soil, the earth and ultimately, for mankind,” states Altfrid Krusenbaum, a Wisconsin farmer who began the transition to organic farming in 1990 (“What is Organic Farming,” 2012).  It is passionate farmers who create sustainable farms.  However, consumers often can influence ethical practices on the producer-end through their dietary choices.  When there is a demand from consumers, there is financial encouragement for producers, and change in the right direction becomes much more feasible. 

Figure 3: This organic farm at CERES Environment Park invites consumers into the growing process and encourages demand of sustainably-produced food.

This movement is already on the rise; producers are seeing a demand, and availability of these ethically-produced foods is increasing.  In order for the shift from conventional to organic-inspired farming to continue, producers must be educated on these alternative methods and their positive impacts.  This is why it so essential that consumers are knowledgeable about food production and the impact their purchases carry.  I believe education on how to be a more sustainable consumer should begin in primary school. Encouragement of simple fixes, like supporting local farms or choosing from the organic section, from a young age will likely encourage sustainable life-long habits.  By supporting farms and companies that value the planet’s current and future health, consumers have the ability to vote using their dollar and transform the agriculture industry into the environmentally-conscious trade that is desired by so many. The emphasis on spreading awareness and implementation of sustainable agricultural practices around the world is imperative to correct the damage that industrialization of this industry has caused.

Altieri, M. A., & Nicholls, C. I. (2003). Soil fertility management and insect pests: Harmonizing soil and plant health in agroecosystems. Soil and Tillage Research, 72(2), 203-211. doi:10.1016/s0167-1987(03)00089-8. Retrieved July 18, 2019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167198703000898

Barroilhet, S. (2012, May 26). The Difference between Conventional Farming and Organic Farming. Retrieved August 1, 2019. https://www.hivehealthmedia.com/difference-conventional-farming-organic-farming/

Mackintosh, C. (2017, February 16). The Rodale Institute’s 30-Year Farming Systems Trial Report. Retrieved July 31, 2019. https://permaculturenews.org/2011/10/13/the-rodale-institutes-30-year-farming-systems-trial-report/

Paull, John (2013) A history of the organic agriculture movement in Australia, Chapter 3, in Mascitelli, B. & Lobo, A. (Eds.) Organics in the Global Food Chain, Connor Court Publishing, Ballarat, pp. 37-61, 241-244.  Retrieved July 29, 2019. http://orgprints.org/26110/7/26110.pdf

Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. (2019, April 29). Retrieved July 30, 2019, from https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions#agriculture.

What is Organic Farming? (2012). In Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education. Retrieved July 14, 2019. https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Bulletins/Transitioning-to-Organic-Production/Text-Version/What-is-Organic-Farming

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