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Sustainability as a social construct

Posted 10/6/2014 7:51pm by Shiloh Avery.

Hmmm...I wonder why our bodies are so tired.

A word that gets thrown around a lot in our agricultural community is “sustainability.” We consider ourselves practitioners of “sustainable agriculture.” A system of agriculture that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse. An overarching question that floats around the perimeter of this discussion is “is is sustainable for the farmer?”

Why, pray tell, have I been pondering this so much this week? You ask. Well, because it’s the season of reflection, my friends! And yesterday, I found myself, once again, embedded in a think tank of farmers at yet another farmer party (see, I told you fall and food gets us farmers off from our farms). And boy, do we love to talk shop. This time though, I noticed our conversations hovering around our aching bodies and our exhausted minds (and this group involved folks under thirty I might add so that you don’t think it was a bunch of grumpy old farmers) and how to alleviate some of that “heaviness”.

It occurred to me that sustainability is a social construct. That anything is sustainable, I suppose. That I could continue running myself ragged in this crazy work cycle. That I could even do this indefinitely (though likely less and less well, I’ll admit). But what it comes down to is that I don’t want to! I want to work a few less evenings, a few less days, heck, even a few less months if we’re talking plain old desire.

And so we, in this season of reflection, plan ways to move toward a more sustainable future. And as we age, our idea of “sustainable” shifts from expansion to reduction.

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