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From Buzzwords to Best Practices

How Farmers & Ranchers are Leading the Charge in Sustainable Agriculture

by Jayci Bishop

In agriculture, especially in farming and ranching, we hear a lot about conservation, stewardship, sustainability, or regenerative ag. It seems there is always a new buzzword to describe things you may already be doing on your farm. When you boil it down, though, what do each of these catchy phrases really mean? By definition, they are as follows.

Conservation: Prevention of wasteful use of a resource.

Stewardship: The conducting, supervising, or managing of something, especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

Sustainability: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level, orbavoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.

Regenerative Agriculture: The process of restoring degraded soils using practices based on ecological principles.

So, in reality, all of these buzzwords floating around since the 1930s go hand in hand. You really cannot have one without another.

Sources: Noble Research Institute & Webster’s Dictionary

Do these buzzwords impact your operation?

Yes. You could glean new ideas from a conversation surrounding them to implement on your operation. You are the person best suited to know the needs of the land you till, and it is in your best interest to do so. There has been a shift from conventional farming to no-till operations where applicable in recent years. This is not because some buzzword told you that you needed to be no-till. It is because you saw a problem and worked to find a solution.

The buzzwords aren’t for us, they are the language of consumers. Not everyone has the privilege to live and work in this industry that we love. We see firsthand how much farmers and ranchers care for the land and animals entrusted to them. These buzzwords help agriculturists communicate with consumers who are buying the goods we produce. Increasingly, consumers care about where their food and fiber come from. Cotton Incorporated researched this topic to learn more about consumers’ sustainability concerns.

What can I do?

Instead of following the buzzword, we as people within agriculture should create the buzz. Dig deeper to change the focus and create our own narrative. Meet consumers where they are to show them we have products that meet their sustainability standards. More sustainable, responsible cotton farming is at the heart of what PCCA grower-owners do.

Let’s tell them how much you love what you do. Explain to them it does not have to have the ‘sustainability’ label to be grown with the utmost care. Show them how proud your family is of your operation. Build trust with them where they feel more comfortable wearing the cotton or eating the food you produce. Educate them on how today’s cotton farmers are raising more cotton with fewer natural resources than ever before.

Telling your story doesn’t have to look like getting on the national news and talking in front of the world. It could be visiting with your neighbor, banker, vet, doctor, politician, or someone you run into in the grocery store. I promise you don’t have to go far to find someone who could benefit from talking to a real grower and learning how much you care about what you do. Let people get to know you, and they will trust you as much as we do.

You are entrusted to care for land that will outlive your lifetime. What legacy do you want to leave on it for others to carry on? Not just in the field, not just for future generations, but also for your business. The commitment to sustainable farming practices permits our growers to endure each season. Imagine what can happen if we band together as an industry to further our purpose.

7 in 10 global customers said sustainability influences their clothing purchases in 2023.

The reasons sustainability influences clothing purchases:

  • 49% Important to do whatever I can
  • 48% Important that products can return to the earth
  • 42% Better for my family’s health

How Consumers Determine Sustainability:

  • 42% Made with natural fibers like cotton
  • 42% Can be recycled
  • 38% Price
  • 36% Made with recycled materials

Top Environmental Concerns:

  • 48% Climate Change/Warming
  • 25% Land pollution, waste, deforestation
  • 42% Water quality, scarcity, pollution
  • 24% Resources population, food scarcity
  • 38% Air pollution, quality

Source: Cotton Incorporated’s Supply Chain Insights: Sustainability in Consumers’ Lives & Wardrobes