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Making Food Production More Sustainable

It’s not quite like saying “global warming.” It doesn’t elicit the same reactions as “climate change.” “Sustainability” is the term that is most prominent in Kenny Fahey’s day to day. Fortunately, it’s not as politically charged as those other two terms.

“Sometimes you have to pick your words carefully, depending on who you're talking to. But the core underlying principles actually find a lot of commonality there,” said Fahey, president and CEO of Leading Harvest.

The non-profit that Fahey leads aims for a united purpose. He doesn’t want descriptors pushing away people who could help. He needs landowners, producers, distributors, and consumers to join, regardless of their political beliefs.

RELATED: The USDA defines sustainable agriculture as “farming in such a way to protect the environment, aid and expand natural resources and to make the best use of nonrenewable resources.” Get ideas for sustainability practices and learn about different methods here.  

Leading Harvest’s mission is deep…much deeper than the nearby Pacific Ocean near Fahey’s home in Seattle.  

“It is quite a bit more challenging!” Fahey said of the global vision, rather than concentrating on improving the agricultural production to consumption process in one state or one region.

“In a global manner, really trying to move the global food system to a model that can stay within planetary boundaries and can support human livelihoods the world over,” Fahey explained, “We’re just trying to make that system work in a way that's more coherent and more efficient.”

And Fahey believes that to move sustainability efforts forward – and with the biggest impact – the effort must be global. “That's more reasonable to really enable the kind of change that we need to see at a planetary level to achieve the big impact outcomes that you know we're hoping for as it relates to things like water and climate and biodiversity and communities.”

Fahey sees both challenges and potential in improving the supply chain. “Supply chain” is almost a universally known word thanks to disruptions during the pandemic. For Leading Harvest, the focus on agricultural supply chains means creating a standard from beginning to end for everyone in the process with global sustainability in mind.

Here is an example of the result of a partnership between Leading Harvest and Lamb Weston, Inc., an Idaho-based frozen potato and fries company. Fahey posted the following message on LinkedIn:

Leading Harvest designed a standard to provide guidance for farmers, producers, companies, and communities to embrace changes for environmental sustainability.

They are based on these principles:


1. Sustainable Agriculture

2. Soil Health and Conservation

3. Protection of Water Resources

4. Protection of Crops

5. Energy Use, Air Quality and Climate Change

6. Waste and Material Management

7. Conservation of Biodiversity

8. Protection of Special Sites

9. Local Communities

10. Employees and Farm Labor

11. Legal and Regulatory Compliance

12. Management Review and Continual Improvement

13. Tenant-Operated Operations


The United States, Australia, and Canada are Leading Harvest’s initial focus with much bigger plans ahead.


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American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


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