In this paper I review the evolution of the sustainability concept. This is followed by a description of three "classical" systems of sustainable agriculture. None of these systems were or are capable of generating growth of output consistent with modern rates of growth in demand. I then turn to three unresolved analytical issues that continue to divide the conventional resource economics and the sustainable development communities. In a closing section I argue sustainable growth in agricultural production should be viewed as a research agenda rather than as a package of practices that is available to producers whether in developed or developing countries.