Online tool encourages producers to farm sustainably

Alberta’s four main crop commissions have developed an online tool they hope will get farmers thinking about how they can become more sustainable.

The tool, which can be accessed on www.farmsustainability.ca, lets producers take a self-assessment in which they answer questions about their farm practices. Based on their answers, the site then gives them an action plan that outlines where they are excelling and how they could improve.

Sustainable practices include things like minimum till, better record keeping and being more energy efficient. The commissions behind the website represent wheat, barley, canola and pulse crops.

They developed the tool due to growing interest in sustainability from consumers, as well as farmers who want to show that they are sustainable, said Jason Lenz, the board chair with the Alberta Barley Commission.

“This is more of a long-term thinking strategy than short-term, and that’s important for the food production system because we have to make sure we’re growing food that is healthy, sustainable and safe to eat,” he said.

The commissions will use data from the tool to potentially figure out where they should put dollars for extension and market development. It could help them become more informed of certain areas that might need investment, said Shannon Sereda, the market development and policy manager with Alberta Barley.

“It’s a really cool part of it because we will be able to start to see where there are gaps and opportunities,” she said.

The tool won’t go into detail on potential costs associated with becoming more sustainable, Lenz added, but it will largely identify what farmers in Canada are doing.

“It was modelled more for Canadian farms, and particularly western Canadian farms,” he said.

Alberta Agriculture and Groupe Agéco, a Quebec-based consulting firm that specializes in economic studies for the agri-food sector, were also behind development of the site.

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