Why should agricultural environments be monitored?

What does sustainable sourcing refer to?


planning to protect environments

The Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a voluntary, whole farm self-assessment tool that many farmers use to assess sustainable practices. Most provinces in Canada use their own form of this tool. 

The EFP helps farmers identify environmental risks and develop plans to reduce or eliminate these risks. About 25 percent of Alberta farmers have registered in the Environmental Farm Plan process.

As part of the process, farmers look at the water, soils and the environmental makeup of their farms, as well as their farming practices. They then evaluate risk areas and identify how to take action.

proactive stewardship

Dairy farmers across Canada use a program called proAction. This program requires dairy farmers to demonstrate responsible stewardship of their animals and the environment, sustainably producing high-quality, safe and nutritious food for consumers.

As part of this program, over 70 percent of Canadian dairy farmers have completed an environmental farm plan, which provides them with an action plan to avoid, manage or address risks on their farms.

Many dairy farmers also have a nutrient management plan or work with advisers to improve animal and crop or feed nutrition. Precision agriculture technologies that support these management plans are increasingly common on dairy farms across the country. 


What steps can you identify that individual farmers take to monitor environmental conditions? What indicators of sustainability can you identify in these examples?


protecting soil and water

Livestock farmers invest in practices to manage and store manure, a valuable nutrient source they can use in growing crops. Many farmers are also paying more attention to the biology of healthy and functional soils. Soil itself is a living ecosystem and soil biology is essential to nutrient cycling. Soil biology improves soil structure and helps soil resist erosion from wind and water. It increases the nutrients available for plants and improves ability to hold water and decrease run-off.


Leroy and Marianne Cook are dairy farmers in southwestern Ontario. There’s a small stream on their property that runs close to their barn and it feeds into a water course that flows downstream through a nearby city. When farms were first established in Ontario in previous centuries, they were deliberately situated near water courses to help feed and water livestock and provide water for the family. As farms and nearby urban areas have grown, farmers like Leroy Cook are now working to take the right actions to minimize any potential risks posed by agricultural nutrients. Last year, the Cooks undertook a large building project to minimize the risk of nutrients from their livestock operation reaching local watercourses and nearby urban communities.

This project included a covered concrete barnyard that gives cattle a dry area to walk around, keeping them cleaner and drier, which benefits their overall animal health and welfare.

They also installed eaves troughs on their barn to channel the clean rainwater off the roof and away from the building. Water is now diverted into a clean, sloped catchment area where all runoff water is contained and directed away in a manner that does not pose risk to the stream.

Why do you think dairy, chicken, turkey and egg farmers are concerned about soil, water and air quality?


From Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association/ Environmental Farm Plan (2012).

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