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Sustainable Agriculture: Development of an On-Farm Assessment Tool

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Agricultural practices can create significant negative environmental, social and economic impacts. These impacts are becoming increasingly important for companies that rely upon agricultural inputs for their products. Ben & Jerry's, led by its deeply rooted company mission, is interested in exploring a broader understanding of sustainable agriculture and sharing the knowledge with Vermont dairy farmers. Sustainable dairy farming strives to protect and enhance the natural environment, animal welfare, and conditions of the local communities, while simultaneously ensuring profitability and providing a high quality of life for farmers and their families. To this end, Ben & Jerry's engaged four masters degree students from the University of Michigan's Corporate Environmental Management Program, associated with the School of Natural Resources & Environment, to develop a comprehensive, yet implementable set of economic, environmental, and social indicators for dairy farming. The purpose of this project was to: 1) provide an on-farm assessment tool; 2) educate/communicate sustainable dairy farming practices; and 3) create a foundation for ongoing work in sustainable agriculture. The creation of a self-assessment tool seeks to develop farm management strategies to include environmental, social and economic goals. The self-assessment tool is made up of 10 modules that encompass social, environmental and economic indicators. This report details the methodology used to create the self assessment tool, supporting research for each module, and the final version of the on-farm self-assessment tool.

Research Areas
Food & Agriculture
Food Systems and Consumer Products
Publication Type
Master's Thesis
Full Citation
Bylin, Carey, Ruchi Misra, Mindy Murch and Wendy Rigterink. 2004. Sustainable Agriculture: Development of an On-Farm Assessment Tool. Master's Thesis, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: 1-420.