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4 Tips to Capitalize on Farm Sustainability

For a farm to become and remain sustainable requires looking into new opportunities, education and diversification. A panel of four distinguished industry representatives touched on these opportunities to capitalize on sustainability at the World Food Prize on Friday.

The diverse panel shared techniques used within their organizations and businesses for overcoming obstacles to enable farmers to continue sustainable practices and grow responsibly and smart.  

1. Welcome Change 

“It’s a huge risk for farmers to make changes in the practices and technologies they are used to using. They really have to really build up a level of trust with advisors and agronomic partners to show that the changes being proposed might really be beneficial from a yield standpoint, seed standpoint, or storage standpoint and how it will truly pay out for them,” says Diane Holdorf, vice president and chief sustainably officer for Kellogg Company.

Communicating with advisors and being aware of the right kinds of changes that will be financially, environmentally, and socially beneficial is something Holdorf says is still a big opportunity to continue to work on together.

2. Don’t Get Complacent

There’s no doubt, the demand for food is continually growing. “The last five years have been very productive. If there’s a short fall in the global food production, we’ll just go back to very dark places,” says Kojo Ammo-Gottfried, vice president and commercial leader in Cargill’s Agriculture Supply Chain North America business.

Ammo-Gottfried also included that a sustainable, strong supply chain will develop when farmers build their trust within a market, including being paid on a timely basis. By doing so, a more holistic approach is reached creating a more sustainable market.  

3. Educate on Animal Health

For many consumers, confusion can surface when offered a variety of labels all providing different benefits. One example used by Dennis Schaffler, director of U.S. dairy sales for Elanco, is the use of antibiotic free labeling.

“Sustainability starts with animal welfare,” says Schaffler. “Making sure we have the right preventative programs with the appropriate use of antibiotics are a necessity. By listening to your consumers, they tell you they don’t want animals to suffer. To ensure this, the usage of antibiotics assists in producing healthy meat, milk, and eggs to enable the human population a balanced, healthy lifestyle.”

4. Diversification for Financing

Diversifying a farm is the final key point touched on for a successful, sustainable operation. “Agriculture is dynamic and markets are dynamic,” says Claire Starkey, president of Fintrac. “What’s up one day isn’t necessarily going to be up the next day, so having an element of self-financing as well as access to credit will enable farmers to be more productive and financially stable.”

Diversification allows farmers to have a surplus so that they aren’t always selling at the lowest price of the year like everyone else is Starkey says. “Mono-cropping can get farmers into trouble.”

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It doesn’t include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, either our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile,” a quote stolen from Robert Kennedy as the opening statement set the tone for the session.

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