It is exciting to see new entrepreneurs coming up with new ways of growing food. I have listened to people explain the efficiency of insect farming and I am sure that indoor vertical farming will have a place. I can see a market for in-vitro meat, and have been fascinated by the idea of protein synthesis from the air. However, the system we currently have will still be here for many years and, to my way of thinking, infinitely sustainable agriculture must have five components:

Healthy soil

Soil is the lifeblood of any farming operation and is the first component of infinitely sustainable agriculture. This thin layer of skin that covers the earth holds water and provides nutrients and sustenance to plants and animals. To feed the population, the soil must have enough power to sustain and grow crops. It must be alive, healthy, and live forever.

Abundant, clean water

Estimates indicate that agriculture uses 70 percent of the fresh water on the planet; water is essential to plant health. We need to press forward with all technologies that would enable farmers to use water more effectively.

Greenhouse gas balance

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are all part of the cycle of crop and livestock production. While the topic of climate change leads to heated discussions, farmers must have the tools to deal with climate change while being recognized for the work they are doing to mitigate or remove greenhouse gases.

Animal welfare

Many farmers make their living from the animals they raise. They care about those animals and the quality of the life of the animal. They can’t make money if the animal is suffering—period. To state that animal health is important to the viability of livestock operations is to state the obvious, and I would wish more animal rights activists would take time to talk to farmers instead of condemning without knowing them.

Economic viability

If the farm isn’t economically viable, you can’t have environmental sustainability nor agricultural sustainability. If farmers are going broke, rather than concentrating on sustainability, they must think about their own survival. When you’re surviving rather than thriving, your focus is on meeting your own short-term needs, not the long-term needs of the global population.

How many businesses do you know that are over one hundred years old? That would be quite an accomplishment, wouldn’t it? Yet I know many, many farming operations that are called century farms, meaning that they have been in the family and passed down generation to generation for over one hundred years.

It drives me crazy when I watch anti-science, anti-modern agricultural activists preach sustainability on social media to these century farmers. When they have a business that has been sustainable for a hundred years or more, then they will have earned the right to preach. In the meantime, maybe an alternative would be to shut up and talk to the farmers about sustainability—they seem to be pretty good at it.