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Defining sustainable viticulture from the practitioner perspective

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By Matthew Hoffman - Posted on 14 April 2011

The Center's sustainable viticulture research group has recently published an article exploring how viticulture practitioners define sustainable agriculture. The article, in the viticulture industry journal Practical Winery and Vineyard, is available as a PDF here.

Sustainability is a central topic of discussion in the viticulture and wine industry. But what is the definition of sustainable agriculture? More important, how can definitions be practically used to help solve the very real problems facing modern agriculture?

Defining sustainability is a challenge, because agricultural systems are complex and dynamic, and involve many stakeholders with different goals and values. For this reason, the question: “What is the definition of sustainable agriculture?” can lead to too much ideological debate and too little action. All the while, agriculture is faced with many economic insecurities, ecological challenges, and social inequities that demand immediate attention.

Definitions have the potential to guide our responses to these problems, but only if they adequately reflect real agricultural needs and realities. By asking, “What definition for what purpose?” we can obtain an action-oriented definition that helps solve real problems. Definitions of sustainable agriculture must include what is to be sustained and for how long, for whose benefit, at whose cost, in what geographic space, and by which means. These definitions must also specify how progress will be measured. These questions take agricultural sustainability in context, and their answers provide insight into how to best achieve on-the-ground results.

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Hoffman_Defining-2011.pdf1.07 MB