Globally, there are social, economic and environmental challenges related to sustainable development; these challenges include climate change, the need to feed a rapidly increasing population, high rates of poverty and environmental degradation. These challenges have forced us to rethink the way in which development takes place, resulting in the emergence of the concept of a 'green economy'. A green economy results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing risks to the environment. It is based on principles which integrate social, economic and environmental considerations. South Africa has adopted the principle of green economic growth, and agriculture is one of the sectors that will drive this growth. Agriculture could address some of the sustainable development problems, but there are challenges related to resource availability, environmental impacts of agriculture and climate change. For agriculture to support a green economy it has to be productive, contribute to economic growth and not undermine the environment, social and cultural systems. The information base and policies required to support a green economy in general, and/or an agriculture-supported green economy have not yet been developed, as the green economy is an emerging concept in South Africa as well as globally. The generation of such information requires analysis and synthesis of green economy principles and agricultural imperatives into generic principles and practices for facilitating agriculture's contribution to the green economy. In this paper, we conduct this analysis and synthesis and highlight the defining aspects of an agricultural green economy.