Think systems, design sustainable: a content analysis of sustainable agriculture plans: guidelines to designing your own plan
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The objective of this study was to determine guidelines about core content which should be included when designing a sustainable agriculture plan. Despite the increased awareness over the past decade, there appears to be a substantial lacking of directions for the application of sustainable agriculture. There is a significant gap in bridging the rhetoric and theory with real life application of principles and design. This paper constructs a set of guidelines for designing a sustainable agriculture plan. The definition of Sustainable agriculture has been undoubtedly discussed over the last decade. While there are several different ideas, they all typically recognize the three facets of sustainability: environment, livelihood, and the community. There have been several Sustainable agriculture plans designed and published; however, few if any, offer a set of standard easy to follow guidelines that someone could use as they look to implement the principles of sustainable agriculture. The lack of clarity amongst previous attempts to outline a sustainable agriculture plan may have its roots in several causes such as the motivations of those distributing the information to the relative maturity of the concepts. However, in reviewing previously published plans there are recognizable themes and general principles to be used by someone interested in putting together their own Sustainable agriculture plan. In the hopes of highlighting and outlining some of the more basic and applicable themes several aspects of academic research were employed. To begin, fifty sustainable agricultural plans were obtained and reviewed to develop an initial list of characteristics. Twenty of the plans were randomly selected and used to fine tune the characteristics. When the categories were selected they were weighted and assigned a number value. This created the coding index. The categories are important but so is the way of looking at them through a Systems Thinking approach as they are all interconnected. The categories are not subject to rigid guidelines and leave room for flexibility but intend to provide a structured way to understand recommendations to develop the appropriate context of an actionable sustainable agriculture plan.