Like climate change and fossil fuels, ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword that is so liberally used by environmentalists, politicians and economists, that we are in danger of forgetting what it means. The central idea of sustainability is to find a balance between exploitation and renewal of the world’s resources. In forestry, it is the principle to never cut down more trees in a forest than can grow back. With projected population rises suggesting a huge increase in demand for food in the next fifty years, understanding the need for real sustainability is more important than ever. Agricultural scientists and researchers in Germany have developed indicators and models to analyse the sustainability of agricultural enterprises, and have created computer software to help agribusiness operate in a ‘sound environmental way’. However, looking at the animals and chatting to farmers at our traditional country shows this year, it is easy to see why the vision of small farming feeding local communities, and worldwide sustainability in agriculture and food, can sometimes be poles apart. Small farmers know, and have known for generations, that to get the best from their land they have to look after it – they don’t need computer software to tell them that. Whilst large scale agriculture may be important to feed an expanding population in the future, the role for small farmers, smallholdings and even allotment schemes is vital to local communities. It would be a mistake to push these aside to focus only on the bigger picture.