Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture refers to an agricultural production and distribution system that:

  • Achieves the integration of natural biological cycles and controls,
  • Protects and renews soil fertility and the natural resource base,
  • Optimizes the management and use of on-farm resources,
  • Reduces the use of non-renewable resources and purchased production inputs,
  • Provides an adequate and dependable farm income,
  • Promotes opportunity in family farming and farm communities, and
  • Minimizes adverse impacts on health, safety, wildlife, water quality, and the environment. (U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program)

This section provides access to general information on sustainable agriculture issues and practices. See also:

  • Production/Organic Agriculture
  • Production/Soil, Water, Energy & Composting

To navigate within this page more quickly, click on the links below.

University ProgramsOrganizationsPublications

University Programs

Sustaining Pennsylvania Agriculture

Penn State Cooperative Extension

Information and tools on management, production and marketing related to sustainable agriculture. It provides meaningful information to scientists, farmers, policy makers, and extension educators interested in all aspects of Sustaining Pennsylvania Agriculture.

Shirley M. Gryczuk
Project Associate, NE Regional SARE Professional Development Program
218 Buckhout Lab
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 863-7235
Fax: (814) 863-7217

Maine Sustainable Agriculture Program

Department of Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, University of Maine

The Sustainable Agriculture Program is an interdisciplinary program offered cooperatively by the faculties of the Departments of Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, Plant Biology and Pathology, and Resource Economics and Policy. In addition to the core courses, students obtain knowledge and skills in the liberal arts, mathematics, sciences, and communications.

Dr. Marrianne Sarrantonio
Academic Coordinator
Sustainable Agriculture Program
University of Maine
5722 Deering Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5722
Phone: (207) 581-2913

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Iowa State University

The Leopold Center is a research and education center with statewide programs to develop sustainable agricultural practices that are both profitable and conserve natural resources. It was established under the Groundwater Protection Act of 1987 with a three-fold mission: to conduct research into the negative impacts of agricultural practices; to assist in developing alternative practices; to work with ISU Extension to inform the public of Leopold Center findings.

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050
Phone: (515) 294-3711
Fax: (515) 294-9696

Looking for Oregon’s Future: What Is Sustainability?

Oregon State University

The Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development has spotlighted the Oregon State University Sustainability Program. The Oregon State University Extension recently developed a primer designed to encourage discussion on the big questions surrounding sustainability — the future of communities, industries, economy, and quality of life. The publication and web site feature 33 stories, including a range of viewpoints related to what sustainability is and stories of people involved in sustainability efforts across the state.

Center for Applied Rural Innovation

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The Center for Applied Rural Innovation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is an interdisciplinary center formed in 1991 for the purpose of bringing together people and resources to promote an agriculture that is efficient, competitive, profitable, and environmentally and socially sustainable for the indefinite future. The newsletters are also available along with other sustainable ag information on their site.

The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems

University of California-Santa Cruz

The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems is a research, education, and public service program at the University of California-Santa Cruz dedicated to increasing ecological sustainability and social justice in the food and agriculture system. CASFS UC Santa Cruz 1156 High St. Santa Cruz, CA 95064 Phone: (831) 459-3240 or (831) 459-4140 (pre-recorded) Fax: (831) 459-2799

Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The CIAS is a small sustainable agriculture research center at the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. It was created in 1989 to build UW sustainable agriculture research programs that respond to farmer and citizen needs and involve them in setting research agendas.

Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
1450 Linden Dr.
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: (608) 262-5200
Fax: (608) 265-3020

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture

University of Minnesota MISA is a unique partnership between the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota and the Sustainers’ Coalition, a group of individuals and non-profit organizations. The purpose of MISA is to bring together the diverse interests of the agricultural community with interests from across the University community in a cooperative effort to develop and promote sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond.

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
University of Minnesota
411 Borlaug Hall
St. Paul, MN 55108-1013
Phone: (612) 625-8235 or 1-800-909-MISA (6472)
Fax: (612) 625-1268

UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture

University of Vermont

The Center for Sustainable Agriculture was established in 1994 as a unit within the University of Vermont Division of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Extension to integrate university and community expertise to promote sustainable farming systems throughout Vermont and the region. Recognizing the need to address issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, the Center works with academic departments, public agencies, private organizations, and producers to find innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing today’s farmers.

Center for Sustainable Agriculture
63 Carrigan Dr.
Burlington, VT 05405
Phone: (802) 656-5459
Fax: (802) 656-8874



Sustainable Alternative Farming Institute

The Sustainable Alternative Farming Institute (SAFI) supports farmers, consumers, lenders, and institutions (e.g., universities, government agencies, businesses) through education and research. Services provided through membership in SAFI include: sustainable agriculture training for individuals and institutions; sustainable alternative agriculture “knowledge packets”; research plots; and research hotline, providing research data to farmers and consumers.

Sustainable Alternative Farming Institute
3903 W. Ridge Trail Rd.
Clark, MO 65243-9525
Phone: 1-800-633-2535
Fax: (573) 687-3148

U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program

Since 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has been the USDA’s primary means of studying and spreading the word about sustainable agriculture. The program has funded more than 1600 projects that help advance knowledge about sustainable practices and systems nationwide. The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) serves as SARE’s outreach arm, offering farmer-ready information through electronic and print publications. SAN resources have helped hundreds — if not thousands — of farmers, ranchers, extension educators, and other agricultural professionals learn more about how to apply sustainable agriculture principles and practices in farm settings across the United States. The SARE web site provides publications, a searchable database of funded projects, and more.

Jill S. Auburn, SARE Director
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250-2223
Phone: (202) 720-5384
Fax: (202) 720-6071

Sustainable Agriculture Education Association

The Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) is a professional
association for the advancement of sustainable agriculture and agroecology in
education. The Association has been in the works for the past few years and it was
recently granted non-profit status. The SAEA has launched a website and listserv
that feature agricultural education resources. Any person who is interested in the
mission and goals of the Association may become a member.

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program

NESARE administers the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grants programs for the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Web site provides information and application forms for several different NESARE grants programs.

University of Vermont
Hills Bldg.
105 Carrigan Dr.
Burlington, VT 05405-0082
Phone: (802) 656-0471
Fax: (802) 656-4656

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas

ATTRA, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a national sustainable agriculture information service managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology. It provides information and other technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States.

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702

Pesticide Action Network North America

PANNA works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, it links local and international consumer, labor, health, environment, and agriculture groups into an international citizens’ action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to insure the transition to a just and viable society.

Pesticide Action Network North America
49 Powell St. Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991



Sustainable Agriculture Publications and Videos

Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont

Newsletters, videos, factsheets, calendars, conference proceedings, directories, books, information packets, and newsletters available from the Sustainable Agriculture Center.

Center for Sustainable Agriculture
63 Carrigan Dr.
Burlington, VT 05405
Phone: (802) 656-5459
Fax: (802) 656-8874

The New American Farmer

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

This new SARE publication collects in-depth interviews with farmers and ranchers to describe sustainable farm operations around the country. In addition to describing successful farming practices, the features in The New American Farmer detail the effects of those practices on farm profitability, quality of life, rural communities and the environment.

Source Book of Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture Network, 1997

A comprehensive resource list to find free and low-cost books, newsletters, conference proceedings, bulletins, videos, reports, and web sites about sustainable agriculture. The Source Book lists 559 resource materials, from how to market sustainably grown vegetables to locating the latest sustainable research findings on the World Wide Web. The book covers print, electronic and video resources — as well as contacts. 136 pages. $12. To order, contact:

Sustainable Agriculture Publications
210 Hills Bldg.
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT 05405-0082
Phone: (802) 656-0484

Steps to a Sustainable Agriculture

Jim Horne, Field Notes, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 1998

8 steps to creating a sustainable agriculture.

Cultivating Sustainable Agriculture in the Catskill Region 

Telling its story through the lenses of six innovative farmers, a 2011 report investigates food production in the Catskills region of New York—a region the report finds has the potential to produce enough healthy, locally grown food to feed millions of people in New York City and beyond.

You can now download the report at

Wild Farm Alliance Briefing Papers

Wild Farm Alliance

The Wild Farm Alliance Briefing Papers series explores many of the issues that define and distinguish the concept of farming with the wild. Each paper focuses on a particular issue set in the context of reconnecting food systems with ecosystems. With these papers, we are striving to bridge the gap between stewardship farming and wildlands conservation.

Farming with the Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches

Daniel Imhoff

Featuring profiles from more than 20 states and illustrated with over 200 color photographs, Farming with the Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms and Ranchesoffers a compelling view of a future in which farming and ranching operations are integrated into regional networks of protected wildlands. Dan Imhoff records his travels to the far reaches of the United States in search of farmers, ranchers, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations who are striving to develop and renew successful agricultural practices that are compatible with wild nature. Combining elements of narrative, travelog, photo essay, and resource guide, Imhoff provides valuable information and inspiration for conservationists, farmers, ranchers, gardeners, students, landowners, and anyone interested in a truly sustainable future for agriculture and biodiversity. Farming with the Wild demonstrates persuasively that such a future is possible. 184 pages. $29.95 plus S&H.

Affordable Opportunities for Precision Farming: A practical way to support sustainable agriculture

Stefanie Aschmann, Robert Caldwell, Larry Cutforth, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, March 2003

The purposes of this technical note are to provide a brief background on precision farming and to describe ways in which its concepts and principles may be applied on farms without a substantial investment in equipment. This information is intended to help farmers who may or may not own a computer, but who are interested in long-term management strategies for improving their farm. Publication is in PDF format

From A to Z in Sustainable Agriculture: A Curriculum Directory for Grades K-12

Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont

This publication is a curriculum directory for grades K-12 that includes more than 100 materials and resources for educating youth about sustainable agriculture, food and fiber systems, natural resources, and their connections to our communities. $6. To order, contact:

Center for Sustainable Agriculture
63 Carrigan Dr.
Burlington, VT 05405
Phone: (802) 656-5459
Fax: (802) 656-8874

Changing Values and Changing Technologies

Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont This publication documents a New England-wide conference for extension and agency personnel and farmers to discuss sustainable agriculture issues in the region. The conference took place in Waterville Valley, NH on March 29-30, 1995 with funding from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. 47 pages. Free for New England residents; $3 for others. To order, contact:

Center for Sustainable Agriculture
63 Carrigan Dr.
Burlington, VT 05405
Phone: (802) 656-5459
Fax: (802) 656-8874

Sustainable Agriculture in Print: Current Books

National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

A supplement to the May 1997 publication.


Farmer-to-farmer know-how from The Rodale Institute. Features news and research, columnists, gleanings, 1000 stories of regenerative agriculture, talking shop, stories about farm life, certification archives, a pig page, an organic price index, e-letters to the e-editors, and more.

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