Solutions for healthy soil

Reach the People Who Reach the Farmers

Allison Thomson, science and research director at the Washington DC-based nonprofit Field to Market, The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, explains how managing the environment from a producer’s perspective is good for farmers, for business, and for the environment.

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The Fieldprint Calculator tool allows members to calculate seven metrics on sustainability: land use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil conservation, soil carbon, irrigation water use, and water quality. An eighth metric, biodiversity, is in the pilot phase.

Reaching the people who advise the farmers—the certified crop advisors, agriculture retailers, university extension programs, and others—is also important to sustainability, says Thomson. “These are the advisors who are already consulting with the farmers, so we can engage them in supply chain projects to enhance the sustainability guidance they offer. For example, advisors on a project can explain a farmer’s scores: ‘Here is how much greenhouse gas footprint you produce; here’s your water-quality output from your farm.’ The grower then has an indication of how well nutrients are or are not being absorbed, which impacts their bottom-line, and can encourage farmers to try new practices.”