Sierra Club Agricultural Committee Mission Statement
We are dedicated to the principle that we must meet our present food, forestry and fiber needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. We support sustainable farms that improve the soil, conserve biodiversity and habitats, and produce safe, healthy food, where workers are treated with respect, animals are treated humanely, and vibrant communities are maintained.
Local Food and What You Can Do
Support Your Local Farmers through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Advantages for farmers:
- Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
- Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
- Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
- Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm, even veggies they've never been known to eat
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
Support Your Local Farmer’s Market
- Michigan has 338 Farmers Markets.
- Supporting your local farmers helps to support the local economy
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants
- Farmers are the experts on their product. They are able to tell you what fertilizers they use and if their product is organic
- Bring the kids to the farmer's market, children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if you are eating them too!
- Read: Healthy Farms, Healthy Food
According to the Michigan State University Extension Service gardening can reduce stress and increase mental clarity while also helping to prevent everything from coronary disease to colon cancer. Read Pesticides & Herbicides
Look for “Pasture Raised”
Organic pasture raised meat, dairy, eggs and poultry are vastly superior to CAFO raised alternatives both for your health and the health of our environment. Read: Food Labeling
Our Food System Contributes Over 30% of the Greenhouse Gases That Cause Climate Change
- Eliminates 1400 miles of food transportation
- You know what fertilizers were used
- You know how insects were controlled
- You know it’s fresh!
Regenerative Organic Agriculture
Conventional agriculture has problems
- Dependence on artificial chemical fertilizer and pesticides
- Monocropping causes loss of biodiversity
- Deep tilling exposes soil to erosion
- Leaves soil unprotected after harvest
- Destroys microbial life
- Reduction of soil carbon by 50% to 70%
CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)
Crowded animals are fed GMOs, growth hormones and an unnatural diet. Constant doses of antibiotics are given to promote growth and keep them alive with these adverse conditions and unnatural diet. This promotes antibiotic resistance. The Center for Disease Control estimates 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic resistant infections.
The Sierra Club has a long history of tackling the environmental problems of factory farms. Read: Healthy Farms, Healthy Food.
Regenerative agriculture ...
... builds topsoil using local, biological fertility such as manure, compost and biochar, legumes and cover crops rather than imported chemical stimulants. To avoid soil erosion and keep carbon in the ground where it belongs, regenerative agriculture uses no till or minimum tilling practices to disturb the soil as little as possible. These practices promote the growth of the soil microbial community which increases the water holding capacity of the soil decreasing the need for irrigation and making the farm more resilient to droughts and floods.
Mycorrhizal Fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plants trading nutrients like phosphorus, iron and other trace minerals for plant carbon sugars (carbohydrates). Mycorrhizae produce a glue-like substance called glomalin that builds soil structure, holds air and water and attracts other beneficial microbes to help feed and nurture plants.
We promote healthier soils through regenerative organic agricultural practices. Such practices use photosynthesis to capture carbon that is in the atmosphere and sequester it in the living soil. This will reduce the impact of atmospheric CO2 on climate change as well as provide healthier food.
Regenerative Agriculture uses beneficial insects, companion planting, and other natural measures in place of toxic herbicides, fungicides and pesticides end up in our air, water and food. Read: Pesticides & Herbicides
- Destroys soil microbiology
- Exposes soil to wind erosion
- Exposes soil to water erosion
- Allows soil to oxidize releasing CO2
- Farms have lost 50 to 70% of topsoil
No Till leaves the soil and all living things in the soil undisturbed. Soil microbes provide nutrients for plants and protect plant roots from pathogens. Healthy plants build soil carbon through photosynthesis while providing healthy food for us.
Note: No-Till is not a panacea for the environmental problems caused by industrial food production. In some parts of Michigan, for example, the practice of No-Till on soils receiving CAFO waste applications or soils that have received excess applications of mineral based fertilizers, results in a build up of the nutrient in the uppermost layer of the soil, making it more available for transport, and leads to an increased runoff of dissolved phosphorous (DP) into the watershed. DP is a driver of the issue of harmful algae blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other Great Lakes as well as Michigan’s inland lakes. Sierra Club’s Less=More coalition has issued several reports documenting the environmental problems of industrial livestock facilities in our region and highlighting the ineffectiveness of “best management practices” to prevent runoff of dissolved phosphorus. View the reports and our video documentaries at https://www.sierraclub.org/michigan/lessmore-reports
Rotational Multi Species Grazing mimics the movement of Buffalo herds that built the highly fertile soils of the Great Plains. A few days after the cattle have grazed the pasture, chickens are brought in to scratch the cow patties. The patties provide a feast of larvae, earthworms and other high protein foods. The chickens get a free lunch and the farmer gets an extra cash crop of broilers or eggs.The United Nations recognizes that properly managed pastures are reservoirs for greenhouse gases.
Sierra Club Agricultural Committee Goals:
- Urging state agencies and lawmakers to support requirements that prevent pollution of resources from farming practices, and ensure adequate enforcement of manure, nitrogen and phosphorus management laws in an effort to limit Toxic Algae and other problems in the Great Lakes Region. Read Follow the Manure: Factory Farms and the Lake Erie Algal Crisis
- Working in partnership with statewide groups to challenge existing factory farms and new facilities proposed in Michigan communities, and promoting family owned carbon smart farming instead.
- Encouraging proper labeling of food products to inform consumers about the presence of antibiotics, hormones and genetically engineered organisms. Read: Food Labeling
- Encouraging local, sustainable food webs which include organic farms and gardens, farmers markets, school gardens, community gardens and urban agriculture. Read: Healthy Farms, Healthy Food
- Working with local communities to support strategies that help families improve their diets.
- Educating the public about the impacts of our food decisions.
- Educating those who work with the soil about climate impacts on their sustainable farming future.
- Working with legislatures to assure adoption of regenerative soil management policies and funding for best management practices.
- Working with employers and legislators to promote and enforce strong worker protection laws that provide safe working and living conditions for all farm workers, a living wage and adequate affordable health care.
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