Essential Steps to a Sustainable Agriculture

Learn about the Eight Steps
to a Sustainable Agriculture


The Next Green Revolution: Essential Steps for a Health, Sustainable Agriculture

by James E. Horne, PhD, and Maura McDermott

In the 1980s and ’90s the Kerr Center formulated basic guidelines for judging how sustainable a farm or ranch enterprise might be:

Create and Conserve Healthy Soil

Encourage Biodiversity

Increase Profitability and Reduce Risk

Sustainability rests on a base of healthy soil. Check out our organic horticulture program for the practices we employ – including rotations, cover crops, compost, and biochar – that build healthy soil.

The Kerr Ranch has woods, pasture, hay meadows, ponds and rivers running through it and is home to wildlife from insect pollinators to bats to ducks and eagles to deer. Our pastures have diverse forages growing in them and our horticulture garden practices crop rotation.

Grazing instead of cutting hay is one way to save money. Substituting management for chemicals and using on farm resources helps reduce risk from rising inputs prices. Our projects encouraging direct sales to the public are designed to increase profitability.

Conserve Water and Protect Its Quality

Manage Pests with Minimal Environmental Impact

Ensure Equity for Farmers and Give Farm Families a Good Quality of Life

The Kerr Center has several ranch projects to protect water: fencing off streams, protecting crossing points from erosion, and limiting access to ponds. Our demonstration market garden plots use drip irrigation.

Bermuda grass is a pest species within a garden, and we control it using cover crops. We strive for a balance of insects so that “good bugs” help to control “bad bugs.” Rotational grazing helps to control weed species in pastures.

Our projects are geared towards helping independent small- and medium-scale farmers compete in a fair marketplace so that they can stay on the farm, raise a family, and experience a safe environment.

Manage Organic Wastes and Farm Chemicals to Avoid Pollution

Conserve Nonrenewable Energy Resources

Develop Strong, Vibrant and Resilient Rural Communities

Rotational grazing of cattle means waste is not concentrated in one area where it can run off easily. We use controlled burns to control weeds, and only resort to synthetic pesticides for spot treatments in situations where other approaches would be problematic.

Around the ranch we use high gas mileage vehicles and electric fencing. Our water system is gravity based rather than pumped. Our use of fossil fuel based fertilizers and chemicals is limited.

Successful sustainable farms and ranchers support vibrant rural communities. Promoting local food sales brings money back into rural communities and increases food security, bettering the health of rural families.

Select Crops and Livestock Adapted to the Environment

In our demonstration market garden plots, we try out crops adapted to the Oklahoma weather extremes of heat, drought, and storms. This includes trials of heirloom vegetable and sorghum varieties. Our Angus-Gelbvieh cattle are adapted to our climate and forages.