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Sustainable Agriculture

What is sustainable agriculture?

Sustainable food production utilizes practices that are environmentally-friendly, healthy, ethical to both humans and animals, and supportive of farming communities. Purchasing food grown locally is also a means of supporting sustainable agriculture, so long as the food is produced without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, factory farming, hormones and non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. Sustainable farming benefits the local community and economy while reducing the environmental impact of food production.

Source: What is local?, Sustainable Table

Sustainable Food Tips:

  • Farmers’ markets are great sources for fresh local produce. Items just harvested from a local farm taste better than those that have traveled thousands of miles before reaching a supermarket shelf. Produce from Farmers Markets is generally cheaper and fresher than what you find in a grocery store. Many Farmer’s Markets, including Vanderbilt’s, have produce from farmers that have received certification as organic from the USDA. Several Farmers’ Markets near Vanderbilt include: Vanderbilt Farmers’ Market, Nashville Farmers Market, East Nashville Farmers Market, West Nashville Farmers Market, and Franklin Farmers Market.
  • Buy local. Not only is your food fresher, but purchasing produce from local growers reduces the environmental impact and costs of transporting products. Minimizing handling, packaging, and transportation costs also gives farmers maximum returns on their investments. If shopping in a supermarket, ask for locally-grown produce.
  • A great resource for finding locally-produced goods, including produce, meats, beverages, wines and plants, is Pick Tennessee Products. Visit LocalHarvest and enter your zip code to search for nearby Farmers’ Markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.
  • Make a Shopping List. If you make a list beforehand, you are more likely to stick to it and avoid junk food (which in turn saves money and allows you to budget more on local, organic foods).
  • Buy a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. When you purchase a share in a CSA, you pay a portion of a local farm’s operating expenses. In return, you receive periodic boxes of fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables from the upcoming harvest. CSA shares typically cost about $300-400 each upfront for weekly deliveries in a 24-26 week growing season. Many CSA programs accept weekly or monthly payments, and you may be able to buy a half-share rather than a whole share. A few CSA Programs in and around Nashville, including ones that deliver directly to Vanderbilt, include: Doe Run Farm, Delvin Farms, Nashville Urban Harvest, and Avalon Acres.
  • Stick to items that are in-season. At peak season there’s more produce, and prices tend to be lower. In the off-season, buy preserved foods, such as canned, frozen or dried organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Join a food cooperative (co-op), a member-owned business that provides groceries and other products to its members at a discount. Many of the products found on the shelves of co-ops are organic, and much of the produce comes from local family farms. Joining a co-op is easy, typically involving signing-up and payment of dues. Co-op members that volunteer to work may get additional discounts on any products they buy.
  • Use your freezer! When you buy in-season or grow organic fruits and vegetables, freeze your leftovers and pull them out as treats during the winter. It’s best to eat organic fruits and vegetables that you freeze on your own within six months. For more information on freezing, canning, and drying fruits and vegetables, check out tips at
  • Purchase store brands. Any food with the word “organic” on its label has to go through the same certification process regardless of its brand name. Buying the house brand in your local grocery store can save you money.
  • Use coupons. Find online coupons from your favorite organic food makers.

Sources: Locally Grown: The Whole Foods Market Promise, Whole Foods; Community Supported Agriculture, LocalHarvest; and Cooperative Grocer for Retailers & Cooperators.