Agricultural sustainability practices give us the opportunity to produce wholesome food without environmental repercussions.
The food production industry in the United States is a significant user of finite resources and is responsible for environmental degradation globally.
Unsustainable food practices contribute to the array of environmental impacts including climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of biodiversity and the degradation of water, soil and air quality.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, one-third of food is never eaten. As food is wasted, so are other resources such as agricultural land, water and energy.
Dr. Erik Hadley, who teaches UF 200: Food and Sustainability at Boise State, was inspired to teach students about agricultural sustainability after taking interest in how food is made.
“Through research, I became increasingly concerned about how our food was made and how far it traveled,” Hadley said.
Hadley grew up in rural Montana with a large garden and functioning ranch. After buying a house in Boise with a garden and chicken coop, he said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to garden.
“One of the coolest things is just knowing that all that food is produced at your intentionality in your own garden and then you get to pick it and eat it,” Hadley said. “There are other sustainable aspects as well, like symbiotic systems.”
According to Recycle Track Systems, an environmental service, 80 billion pounds of food is wasted every year in the United States. That averages to 219 pounds of food waste per person.
Gardening saves money and gives control of how much food is produced, so less goes to waste.
“This could be a really useful thing for your life, not just because it makes you feel better about the food you eat, but because it creates this connection between you and the natural world around you,” Hadley said. “Idaho is a really great place to grow food, and it’s really cheap.”
Urban agriculture is beneficial to the environment. There is more availability of nutritious foods, reduces environmental decay and creates more sustainable systems.
Community gardens directly impact the environment. They improve air, water and soil quality, increase biodiversity and reduce transportation.
Boise State’s Community Garden is tended to by the Sustainability and Community Garden Club on campus.
This organization is dedicated to teaching students about sustainable living and provides an opportunity for students to get their hands dirty and learn about biodiversity.
“The founding mission of this club was just to make a space that would’ve been plowed over and turned into a concrete slab for parking, and restore it and bring it to life so that we can foster a better experience for the community,” said club president Cody Fleenor. “We want to be an example of how to be more sustainable and cultivate that through the community.”
The main focus of the club surrounds the community garden, which is located on the outskirts of campus on Juanita Street.
“We just wanted a space for learning and a welcoming space for everyone,” said Alayna Chu, the communications coordinator of the club.
The community garden is an example of how growing food takes away the carbon footprint of industrially produced food.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and removal of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is possible by changes within food systems.
While sustainable agriculture practices are designed to protect the environment and future generations, it’s going to take a worldwide effort to make a change.