What does sustainability mean?

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Why it’s cool for some, but taboo for others.

Sustainability is a topic that has been on the forefront of the minds of lawmakers, homemakers, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between lately. Whether it is in terms of food, waste, or food waste, everyone is worried about what we are doing to the one and only place we know of that supports human life. While there are a million definitions of sustainability, here is the one we are going to be talking about.

In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.

People are trying to be sustainable in a variety of different way. Whether they are building tiny houses or buying locally, there is a movement to be more responsible with what we buy, what we throw away, and everything in between.

My personal favorite sustainable idea is minimalism. Minimalism is basically the opposite of the American dream, but in a good way. Think tiny houses, limited waste, and reusable everything. Some people do this so they can travel more and have less financial stress, but many people do it simply because they can.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have farmers. They are creating more food on less income and with less inputs, making them fit the definition of sustainable, but often these farmers that are working so hard to make their operations better are often the ones called out for being “Factory Farms” or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations)

So why are people with tiny houses heros and farmers the scum between society’s toes?

Cause no one gets it. And even less people want to. While these farmers are working to make their land last for their kids’ kids and produce safe and healthy animals, nearly all of them are being thrown under the bus all because we don’t get why they do what they do. And the only real difference between this,

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and this,

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is that one animal reaches harvesting weight over twice as fast (the one in the pen). I can personally guarantee that they are both just as happy, and just as well cared for. And the one that reaches harvest weight quicker means less land used, less inputs, and more food for you and me.

Why? Because farming is HARD, and farmers don’t usually make a ton of money. All of the money earned from a load of cattle or tank of milk usually pays for the vet bills, tractor parts, and land rent. While farmers do deal with large amounts of money, many don’t keep it for very long, because if they do, the bank is gonna come after them.

So if farming is so crappy (literally) and not very profitable, then why do they do it? The single largest motivator, money, is gone. They do it because they like it. Like, like it enough to wake up every morning at 5a.m., and go milk. Or at 2a.m. and go check a cow that’s calving. IN MINNESOTA none the less. Can you imagine leaving your warm bed to stumble, half asleep into a cold, smelly, barn to make sure a calf isn’t being born?

Believe it or not, farmers do, and they like it. Some would even say they love it. Have you ever met someone who loves a job they suck at? It’s about intrinsic motivation. If you like it, you’re going to try really hard to be good at it. And taking care of the land, your animals, and being sustainable is how farmers are good at their jobs. So next time they try to tell you so, believe them. They’re cooler than the people with the tiny houses anyway.