Alternative agriculture is defined as production systems that do not use conventional methods. They aim at following the concept of agroecology. These kinds of systems seek sustainable performances while optimizing all agroecosystem resources.
Alternative agriculture gathers a lot of different systems such as organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, integrated agriculture, agroforestry, permanent agriculture, etc. Despite their differences, these systems share common values. Their technical itineraries were actually firstly thought as ways to preserve the environment and more precisely soil and water. They also seek to reduce or suppress the use of chemicals and mineral fertilizers, thanks to respectively biological control and organic fertilizers and amendments. They intend to comply with natural cycles, by using crop rotations, cover crops or no-tillage for example. Thus, these systems try to fit their territories.
While achieving this goal, they also include a social dimension. The farmers who practice alternative agriculture often seek the overall improvement of their living standards. They also aim at including themselves in the local social network and at selling quality products.
Furthermore, farmers who practice alternative agriculture are able to ensure a profit and respect the environment and people. To achieve these goals, they can develop on-farm processing, producer-to-consumer schemes, agritourism, etc.
Alternative agriculture can be linked to agroecology thanks to their common concepts and objectives as well as biotechnical and socio-economical aspects. Alternative agriculture is sometimes mentioned to be in perfect synonymy with agroecology, or at least with a strong convergence of meanings.
References to explore
McCracken M. 2011. Alternative agriculture. TeachMeFinance.com – explain Alternative agriculture. Website, read 07 October 2018.
Rushefsky M. 1980. Policy Implications of Alternative Agriculture. Policy Studies Journal 8 (5), pp 772‑784.