Industrial and Sustainable Farming

An inside look into the challenges of feeding the rapidly growing population while also considering the environment. 


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Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the agricultural industry today is feeding the world’s rapidly growing population while also caring for the environment. At the center of the challenge is the tension between sustainable and more mainstream industrial farming practices.

This video looks at ecological problems caused by farming which relies on pesticides, hormones, and heavy mechanization. The program also assesses the advantages and disadvantages of sustainable alternatives. Interviews with a vegetable farmer, an organic winemaker, and an environmental scientist explore issues at the core of agribusiness while touching on innovative ideas and ongoing technological changes in farming practices around the world.
Video Segments
1. Industrial vs. Sustainable Farming This film will investigate where the produce in this man's--and your--sandwich comes from, and how it is grown.
2. Issues with Large Scale Agriculture The farming industry must produce enough to feed the growing world population. Plants need sunlight, nutrients and water; an expert explains how industrial farming practices damage natural habitats and pollute the environment with fertilizers and pesticides.
3. Industrial Farming: Supplying Cities Before the 21st century, farming was done at a small scale to feed local populations. This changed with urbanization and the development of chemical inputs and agricultural machinery. Large scale cultivation lowers prices for consumers, but can lead to soil salinity and pollution of nearby waterways.
4. Chemical Inputs in Agriculture Farmers describe fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used on their crops. Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous increase plant growth rate and yields, even in poor quality soil.
5. Combating Soil Degradation A farmer switched from plowing under fertile topsoil to using tines to loosen sub soil for root penetration, aeration and water drainage.
6. Monoculture: Going against Nature When a single crop is cultivated, the lack of biodiversity attracts pests and drives away beneficial insects.
7. Ecosystem Service Accounting The international community is trying to calculate the real costs of environmental pollution and biodiversity loss from industrial farming.
8. Sustainable Farming Philosophies The problems associated with industrial farming illustrate a need for ecologically friendly practices. Organic farming, biodynamic farming and permaculture all promote soil health by encouraging bacterial and fungal activity.
9. Benefits of Sustainable Farming A farm's long term economic viability increases with improved soil health and the use of local inputs such as livestock fertilizer. Health benefits include farm workers no longer exposed to dangerous chemicals; consumer demand for sustainably grown food is rising.
10. Sustainable Cultivation Practices Learn about pest management and contour plowing. Crop rotation increases soil fertility, helps replenish nitrogen and reduces buildup of pests and pathogens. Organic farmers describe the process of becoming independent from chemical inputs.
11. Soil Protection, Interplanting and Mulching Planting wind breaks protects against erosion and encourages less water use. Planting multiple crops together attracts beneficial insects and increases biodiversity. Incorporating leftover organic matter after harvest helps retain water and increase soil carbon levels.
12. Drawbacks of Sustainable Farming Increased soil health produces food with higher nutrition, benefiting consumers. However, sustainable cultivation is less efficient than industrial agriculture—requiring more land to produce comparable yields, which results in habitat loss.
13. Balancing Business and Environment Ecologically sustainable agriculture must also be economically sustainable. Two farmers discuss their successful operations.
14. Environmental Stewardship Industrial agriculture is depreciating soil capital and decreasing biodiversity. Farmers following sustainable practices aim to improve the health of their land for future generations. One man believes using traditional cultivation methods, without chemical inputs, can produce enough food to feed the world. There are limitations to building relationships on the phone, but the right skills can overcome most challenges associated with telephone customer service.

Grade: 6-8, 9-12

Industrial and Sustainable Farming (DVD)
© 2012
Time: 21 Minutes

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