How do sustainability trends affect farming and food production?

Have the number of farms in Canada increased or decreased over time?


Read and discuss TRENDING ENVIRONMENTS to find out more about actions farmers take to protect soil, air and water quality.

Complete the activities in MEASURE ENVIRONMENTAL TRENDS.


Read and discuss FARMING RESPONSIBLY to learn how practices that protect the health of animals and safety and quality of food is part of sustainable agriculture.




thinking about sustainability

What do you think sustainability means to farmers?


Sustainable farming requires farmers to see and understand the relationship between what they do and its effect on the land, soil, water, air and the natural plants and animals that live in their environments. Farmers consider themselves to be the caretakers of these environments.

Farmers use science, new research, technology and education to continually improve their farming practices. This includes practices like rotating the crops grown on fields each year, adding natural manure fertilizers to fields and using new technologies.

Sustainable farming also means that farming practices are always improving. Canadian dairy farmers continually update their practices to improve efficiency and sustainability on the farm. Natural resources are required to produce food, and dairy products are no exception.

Dairy farming does produce carbon emissions, but less than you may think. Milk production represents less than 1.3 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions generated from producing an average litre of milk are among the lowest in the world. Producing a litre of milk in 2019 took 6 percent less water and used 11 percent less agricultural land than it did in 2011.

Thanks to new research, technologies and farming practices, farmers are able to do more with less.


using renewable energy

Many farms in recent years have installed solar panels. These are usually placed on the roofs of their barns and other outbuildings. These solar panels can immediately lower farms’ energy costs. Solar systems can also be scaled up to produce extra energy. Farmers can sell this energy into the system, which can be used to power homes and businesses in their communities. This is an example of solar farming.

Some farms install wind turbines to take advantage of wind power and produce green energy. As of 2016, there were over 1500 farms in Canada using wind energy.

Source: Adapted from Dairy Farmers of Canada: From Biofuels to Solar: Farming with Renewable Energy.


How do energy saving practices improve sustainability on the farm?



Meet Jordan, an Albertan dairy farmer that chose solar panels over a new truck. Why? Because for local dairy farmers, taking care of the land is in their nature.

technology is sustainable too

Many dairy farmers high-tech tools on their farms. These tools include milking robots, feed-pushing robots, GPS-enabled tractors, text alerts to notify farmers about calving cows and more.

Data from sensors – that cows wear something like people wear smart watches or fitbits – is used to monitor a cow’s body temperature, check up on their health and detect illness early.

These tools help farmers with smaller herds produce the same number of litres of milk that would be expected of a larger herd. Smaller herds and efficient milk production practices means a smaller carbon footprint and less impact on the environment.

Adapted from Dairy Farmers of Canada: Technology and the Future of Canadian Dairy Farming.


Why do you think increased milk production with fewer cows is an example of a sustainable farming practice?