In the world of agroecology, sustainability is the name of the game. According to agroecology.org, agroecology is "the application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems." The practice of allowing sustainability to dictate how we grow and raise our food is what allows us to come back to our roots and sustain healthy farming communities. Rather than inundating the numerous crop fields worldwide with pesticides galore, implementing agroecology means taking an approach that will not doom the planet to chemical-induced collapse. Agroecology is differentiated by paying distinct attention to the ways that agricultural practices can exist in harmony with the environment and what makes the most sense ecologically.
When it comes to measuring the various ways in which our current agriculture systems, not just in the US but also worldwide, there are a number of shortcomings that will be causes of major problems; that is, if they have not already been cited as the cause for one of the most pressing ecological issues we are facing. For instance, agriculture alone is responsible for using about 70% of the earth's fresh water (Agriculture and Food Systems Unsustainable). As if the general production process of most agricultural products isn't enough (think of all the energy, water, and plastic material that goes into the production, shipping, and sale of most food that finds its way onto grocery store shelves), don't forget the pesticide problem that has continued to plague most major farms around the world. Pesticides used in nonorganic corporate farms have caused major damage to the soil and land in most rural areas, to the point where chemicals easily seep between farms and even into more urban areas. Organic farms, or farms dedicated to natural non-pesticide growing methods, still suffer from the runoff that ends up in their land thanks to their proximity to farms that continue to pour chemical cocktails into their fields.
Large corporate farms have been the root of many problems for the ecosystem when it comes to agriculture. Whether a farm is tasked with growing vegetables or raising animals for slaughter, the same problems persist. Over the course of produce measured worldwide, it has been reported that 50% of the crops we grow worldwide are not even meant to feed people (Agriculture and Food Systems Unsustainable); rather, these crops, such as corn, are used in animal feed. If cattle and other animals were raised naturally instead of being force-fed a corn-based diet in order to be ready for slaughter. Those problems aside, looking at food production through the lens of agroecology shows that there are ways to live more in harmony with nature.
So what about agroecology addresses these problems? Going back to the definition we included earlier, the one citing that the so-called simple fix lies in applying ecological practices to the design of an agriculture system, this is certainly a start. However, there is much more to the picture than first meets the eye. Implementing systems that reflect the urgency our planet demands in regards to its ecological state means moving away from the corporate structure of agriculture that dominates the industry today. Solutions in agroecology include anything from looking into alternative agricultural growing practices, going back to traditional farming methods (even pre-industrial revolution), and implementing a system of biodiversity in the types of crops farms grow. These patterns that cater to the environment from an ecological standpoint are the kinds of patterns that move us away from the highly corporate system and into the local fields. It means taking our dependance on farmers from hundreds of miles to a matter of city blocks. Choosing local farmers that implement biodiversity and safe growing practices is a first step. Even if dismantling the large-scale industry of farming isn't first on the agenda, the choices of an individual and of subsequent communities is what leads to the kind of change that we can expect will be more valuable to our health and to the health of our planet.