Everyone has a slightly different definition of ecological agriculture. But one thing is for sure: ecological agriculture is a practice of natural growing, an alternative to standard agrochemical production. Agricultural practices today span a continuum from absolutely horrible for the environment towards very beneficial and symbiotic with the natural cycles of an environment ( for example, practices range from conventional to organic to beyond organic with many stops in between). Ecological agriculture speaks to this more enlightened path of working with the natural cycles of an area, to building and even improving an area where crops are grown. But there is so much more than just growing practices that define an agricultural system.

 A Whole Systems Approach

Ecology of growing practices is just one part. The ecology of the social system surrounding an agricultural area is also very important (in addition to the economic and political components). The human side cannot be ignored.  AASD plays a major role in this human side of agricultural systems. Yes, we promote ecological growing practices. But even more we promote empowerment, autonomy over one’s food system, and respect for nature and the individuals who produce food in the Andean systems. Through educational models worldwide many organizations, including AASD, promote knowledge by learning with farmers and community members. Together these groups educate each other through a system of shared knowledge – each day learning how to respect nature and human beings alike. Because  there are many inextricable parts that make up a sustainable and healthy growing system.

Both the UCSC Life Lab and Live Earth Farm’s Discovery Program are  inspiring examples of educational  agriculture systems that I recently visited. Both promote a holistic approach to ecological agriculture, always bringing in the social, and in the case of Live Earth Farm, the economic side of the story (you can read more about my visit to Live Earth here). ~Kat

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