Comparison of Farming Systems
Destanie Schneider is a food science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is from Valders, Wisconsin. Destanie reflected on the sustainability of food production systems.
This entry will reflect upon food production systems and whether they have economic, environmental, or social sustainability. For clarification I will set “my” definitions for each type of sustainability. I am defining economic sustainability as having expenses covered and some profit put into savings. Environmental sustainability depends upon the climate, resources, and natural surroundings and what measures are taken to maintain or improve these conditions. Being socially sustainable means being able to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, education, and safety. It also means strengthening a community’s sense of connectedness with its history and environment.
The three systems I will compare are PROAN, smallholders, and tropical dairies. PROAN is a large corporation that focuses on producing animal protein.
The name PROAN comes from “protein animal”. The business is separated into four units: poultry, dairy, swine, and the feed mill. There are million of chickens, thousands of cows, and overall big production numbers at PROAN.
The smallholders in San Felipe del Progresso were subsistence farmers. They mainly grow crops such as corn, beans, wheat, squash and other vegetables. They do raise a few animals but they are viewed as a “savings account” or consumed by the farmer. San Felipe del Progresso is located in the highlands of Mexico and erosion is a problem.
The tropical dairy is a dual-purpose farm. Cattle are raised and the farmer makes profit from either the milk or the meat. The milk production is seasonal due to the climate and feeding system. When milk is not being produced or the market prices are low, the farmer can sell the cattle for meat.
I ranked PROAN the highest for economic sustainability and not just because the business can bring in the most money. There is a need for all of their products and so there most likely will always be a market. For example, there are not enough egg farms in Mexico to meet the consumer demand. PROAN has all of its farms within a small radius and makes its own packaging which can keep down costs such as transportation. San Felipe would rank in the middle for economic sustainability. Even when droughts occur, the farmers can still plant crops. If the growing season is short they will plant red corn and if the growing season is long they will plant yellow corn. The yields for red and white corn are not the same but they grow best in those conditions. The tropical dairy is ranked lowest for economic sustainability. It may be considered an advantage that these farmers can compete in both the milk and meat market but they also face many hardships like disease due to the climate.
PROAN also is the highest for environmental sustainability. Some of the waste management practices may not be the best but this business should be able to apply its money and knowledge to fix these problems. The smallholders are the intermediate for environmental sustainability. They have had a tough time with erosion problems but with help from the Government and some education are fixing these problems. The tropical dairy is ranked last. The farm does not seem to be degrading the title environment but as far as enduring the environment, the outlook does not look positive.
I have ranked the smallholders of San Felipe del Progresso the highest for social sustainability. The donkey has made it possible for women and children to do other things. Less of their time is spent fetching water. Another reason I feel that they are socially sustainable is because they still speak in their native tongue. PROAN is the intermediate for social sustainability. From what we could see, the workers were treated well and the business would not be as successful without the workers. PROAN is also able to make connections with visitors like us. The generosity shown by the people of PROAN impacted us all. The tropical dairy is ranked last for social sustainability because it does not really seem that the community needs it. This type of farm is a second or third job for many in the community. One positive about the tropical dairy is that people address and work through the problems together.
This comparison is not meant to show that one production system is better than the rest. They each have their triumphs and troubles. The American Public Health Association defines a sustainable food system as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. "