The meaning of sustainable agriculture: Reflections of some Kansas practitioners

D. Norman, L. Bloomquist, R. Janke, S. Freyenberger*, J. Jost, B. Schurle, H. Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we report on what 'sustainable agriculture' means to farmers who seek to develop more sustainable farming systems. Group interviews were conducted with two groups of sustainable farmers in Kansas to learn how they developed their respective approaches, the kinds of parameters they have used to evaluate success and progress, and what other evaluation tools would be helpful to them. For the farmers we interviewed, the central meaning of sustainable agriculture is its holistic approach to assets management. It also means an alternative perspective on what constitutes success in farming. While economic considerations are important, they are balanced by other considerations such as environmental quality, quality of life, and the contributions the farmers can make to their communities. Sustainable agriculture also means an approach to agriculture that entails 'thinking risks' as much as financial risks. Lastly, sustainable agriculture means whole farm planning; the farmers we interviewed were more interested in applying whole-farm planning principles based on their local knowledge, than in evaluation tools based on the expert knowledge of researchers and other scientists. The implications of what sustainable agriculture means to these farmers for research and educational programs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-136
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Alternative Agriculture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Evaluation tools
  • Group interviews
  • Whole farm planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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