In effort to improve data collection on on-farm stewardship efforts across the U.S., 12 ag groups have collaborated to form FieldRise LLC, a farmer-managed data collection and analysis group that aims to back stewardship efforts with science and economics.
FieldRise also will help broaden U.S. sustainability focus beyond farms and supply chains to also encourage consumer food sustainability progress.
"FieldRise success is powered by metrics, new messages and proactive teamwork that foster healthier food chain relationships and sustainability outcomes," the group explains.
Stewardship data is collected via field-level and whole-farm questionnaires, customized for each commodity, which take about 40 minutes to complete.
FieldRise began as the National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture, with farm groups and advisers from 12 commodity and direct-consumed crops from throughout the country serving as interim leaders.
The group created measurement tools and educational materials which were field-tested and backed by statistical analysis. In April 2014, NISA completed its 1,000-farmer, 1-million-acre pilot and transitioned from the University of Wisconsin to become a Wisconsin LLC in October 2014.
Founding partners are University of Wisconsin agriculture professors Dr. Jed Colquhoun, Dr. Shawn Conley, Dr. Paul Mitchell, and marketing and sustainability strategist John Osthus.
Support and membership
"FieldRise is agriculture's first farmer-founded, farmer-managed system that's field-proven to measure practices that increase production, protect profit, benefit workers and enhance environmental protection," says former National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture Board Member and American Soybean Association Director Ron Moore.
FieldRise support comes from membership fees from farm groups, the food chain, and other stakeholders. The launch is an ideal time to become a founding member, Moore says.
FieldRise members can suggest questions for the questionnaire. All members get aggregated data.
"FieldRise makes it easy for associations to offer farmers online questionnaires to assess their practices and plan for the future. Farmers pay nothing to fill out the questionnaires and their personal information remains strictly confidential," Moore adds.
Ultimately, participating farmers will soon be able to opt for a confidential individual scorecard to see how they compare with their peers or to help plan for the future. Repeating the questionnaires every couple of years helps chart progress, Moore says.
Backed by research
Working with University of Wisconsin crop scientists, agronomists and economists, NISA created a proven way to anchor farm sustainability in measurement that can withstand scrutiny, says Del Monte Research Fellow Brian Flood, Ph.D.
"The resulting FieldRise program gives us closer relationships with growers, and yields information ranging from simple measures to advanced statistical analyses that help document our supply chain sustainability," he says.
The results also give farm groups and the food chain practical ideas for voluntary improvements that tie back to farm profit and the grower's innate commitment to the environment and society, Flood says.