Deana Knuteson, Healthy Grown Coordinator, NPM Program, UW-Madison
As the requirements for sustainability becomes more evident in the marketplace, and as more, complex data is collected on the farms, it is important for growers to understand these trends so that they are aware, prepared and proactive. On-farm data can be used to respond and document production practices, and can be used for promotions to show your own farm advances.
National sustainability programs emphasize environmental, economic and social components of sustainability and are looking at how to calculate and track progress along the sustainability continuum.
Some examples are Field To Market (https://fieldtomarket.org/), the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (https://www.stewardshipindex.org/), and the Cool Farm Tool (https://coolfarmtool.org/). Growers can use these to track and document specific practices for their farms and see where adjustments could be made. Additionally, some retailers have developed their own sustainability efforts, and many retailers are using these for corporate responsibility programs and to have on-farm data to track improvements overtime. Incentives for growers for sustainability tracking can be as simple as a premium for product, preferential buying, or in more complex ways such as reduced insurance rates or via public investments such as tax breaks or direct payments for practice adoption.