How Diversified Farming Systems can Benefit the Environment

Diversity is a word that is central to sustainability. Nature’s solution to create abundance has diversity at the core. Diversified farm systems, DFS, offer several different trends in diversity. In many cases it is simply reintroduction of farming wisdom that has worked for thousands of years. It also introduces beneficial and natural interactions of wildlife, pollinating insects and even domestic livestock.

Diversified farming methods pay attention to water availability as well as soil quality and protection. Practitioners also care about the community, how to reduce the problems of artificial chemicals, green house gases, mono-cultured crops and more. As in all sustainable systems, farming done right enriches, rather than depletes, the environment.

Many farming techniques used today began in an era of abundant and more easily obtained fossil fuels. Also, still in use are artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that take a considerable toll on the environment.  Another concern is that the green revolution, which so successfully increased crop yields worldwide, also created a less stable dependency upon just a few crops such as wheat and rice. Whole populations of seed species have become rare, and this lack of diversity has implications for the human diet.

It changed local community interactions by taking control of entire nations by western interests.  Many regional conflicts arose in politics and amid the consequences of the type of development that investors saw as “superior.” Mechanization in some areas took jobs away from local people.  Dams flooded out entire areas causing floods and caused salination of water.  In other regions, millions of acres were transformed from natural habitat to farm land. The overuse of high yield varieties of seeds, HYV, genetically alters foods for even larger yields. And, although starvation was halted in many areas, no fully successful applications to control overpopulation have been enacted. 

With diverse farming methods, these difficulties are all addressed. Fresher food, food free of contaminants and community supportive programs are all important considerations. Yet, initial costs remain high due to the large-scale capabilities and vast production of entities who are giants in comparison to such local farms. For example, it will take some time for the idea of buying what is in season to catch on to present day consumers. And eating healthier diets is far more difficult in a convenience-based and “fast food mentality” raised populace.

Free-roaming livestock and poultry enrich the soil naturally, thus there is less erosion and the huge benefits to be gained by reducing the need for factory farms. For DFS to really thrive will likely require programs and education help to explain the importance of pollinators, natural manure, soil enhancement, water conservation and varied crops. Healthier for both land and people are co-evolved species that could live in hedge rows and nearby conserved tracts of land, these natural “herbicides and pesticides” can then offer their many community benefits for the sustainable ecosystems there.

There is one more important consideration when a region enacts diversified farming systems. Growing food locally increases community cohesiveness, encourages cooperation and thereby has a huge psychological benefit of helping people realize belonging in, rather than dominating of, nature.