Agricultural Sustainability Analyses and Assessment

21st Century Sustainability Consulting, LLC

Concerns about agricultural sustainability have moved into news headlines over the past decades. The industrialized agricultural methods developed during the 20th century have achieved their goal of feeding more people on less land. But, that agricultural system has been a primary contributor to natural habitat loss and degradation; it is an unsustainable model and cannot continue to be the world’s major source of food. Humanity is facing an uncomfortable dilemma- the negative impacts from industrialized agriculture is both feeding the world and slowly eroding mankind’s ability to survive on this planet. Agricultural production systems must be adapted to this new reality and implement more sustainable methods. These food growing operations and the methods they employ must be sustainable in three ways: environmentally, economically and socially. Any food growing operation that destroys the resources it depends upon (such as soil) is doomed for eventual failure. Likewise, it must also produce sufficient profit to make it worthwhile or it will be abandoned. Lastly, if the operation is not environmentally and economically sustainable, it will not be a viable asset that can pass to successive generations and an important heritage will be lost.

Agricultural sustainability is an important consideration for two different groups of clients: food growers and policy makers. For these clients, a comprehensive Cost-Benefit Analysis of their operation (or proposed operation) can be invaluable. In addition, a life-cycle analysis of agricultural inputs and products can inform the grower about the most unsustainable elements of their operation.

Agricultural sustainability is an emerging field, but quantitative and objective metrics to measure sustainability are rarely applied. These metrics are necessary to better understand how costs, expenses, inputs, benefits and outputs affect an operation’s economic and environmental sustainability. 21st Century Sustainability Consulting, LLC can provide an analysis of a food growing operation to examine how it become more sustainable.

Planners, policymakers and community leaders who are involved in scoping new urban agriculture initiatives or who wish to identify the benefits of existing projects (such as a community garden) will appreciate the agricultural sustainability analyses offered by 21st Century Sustainability Consulting, LLC. Quantifying the benefits of a sponsored activity, in both type and magnitude, allows sponsors to make decisions about how urban agriculture can fit into urban planning goals and objectives. These analyses can show how much “bang for the buck” an existing or proposed project will provide from its investment. Urban agriculture can be more easily integrated into the planning process if knowledge about its benefits, feasibility, forms and receptivity by residents are known. Some questions that these analyses can answer are:
*How feasible is a proposed venture?
*Is there enough space to create a productive operation?
*What is the production potential?
*Can a proposed venture contribute significantly to the local food supply? If so, how much?
*Will people in an urban area grow food for themselves? If so, what resources do they need?
*It is economically worthwhile to grow food in a certain area?
*How will a proposed venture contribute to urban sustainability initiatives?