This sustainability subject is a slippery slope (how’s that for some alliteration?) The further I delve into what a triple bottom line means for Ontario agriculture, the further I find myself down the organic rabbit hole.
If you are not immediately familiar with the concept of triple bottom line (I admit I was not before last month), it’s the idea that businesses should strive for and be measured not only on profit, but their societal and environmental contributions as well. In short, it’s corporate social responsibility.
As business owners, we worry a lot about the profit on the bottom line, but how much do we consider the business’ impact on the people and planet around us.
In many ways, farmers are already familiar with this concept. We pride ourselves on being stewards of the land. Participation in conservation programs like the Environmental Farm Plan is as high as 70% in Ontario and adoption of new technologies appears solid. Canadian farmers are proud to produce some of the safest food in the world. Yet, as I peel back the onion of issues, particularly around our field crop practices, my stoic confidence is wavering. There are so many layers, and I quickly regret not taking more science in undergrad. The science behind soil health and plant development should be so basic, no farmer should question what the right thing to do is on their operation.
Yet, in reality it is far more complex than this and maybe more so than necessary? Increasingly, I’m coming to believe social structure is as responsible for the current state of affairs in agriculture, as it is in any other aspect of our culture. If a paper ever evolves from the overwhelming amount of information I’ve absorbed in the past two weeks, it will still be ripe with questions. In what appears to be simple science, remains a host of speculation, uncertainty, fear and probably even a little distrust. In some ways, I feel compelled to dismiss those conventions I’ve come to accept, yet I struggle to abandon the steadfast belief there is a balance between technology (of all forms) and raw science. Without any technology we would revert back to pre-Green Revolution, which is also not practical because only 2% of the populations farms to put food on the table.
So, I will continue down the rabbit hole, unsure of what I will find next but certain there is going to be a paper in here somewhere.