Social Sustainability on the Farm is a professional development project of the Vermont State SARE program. It is currently being offered as a series of field-based and webinar trainings and follow-up activities for University of Vermont Extension agriculture personnel and other agricultural service providers.
Improving quality of life is a central component of the missions of both Northeast SARE and the University of Vermont Extension. But what does “quality of life” mean, particularly to Vermont’s farm families? Although it is generally agreed upon that social sustainability issues are important to address, they are often overlooked in educational programs. This project is, therefore, helping Extension agriculture personnel to better understand the “third dimension” or social sustainability issues individual farm families face, and integrate these issues into their work with farmers.
The general definition of social sustainability is the ability of a social system (in this case, a farm) to function at a defined level of social well-being indefinitely.
The project is addressing the following social sustainability topics:
- Community Connections (contribution in local services, quality of non‐agricultural relationships, social contribution, and regional presence of agriculture),
- Entrepreneurship (including business formation, use of advisory services, vision, human resources management),
- Equity (including social justice; and farmer access to capital, land, technical assistance, and other services),
- Farm Succession (business continuity, retirement and estate planning, land transfers), and
- Health and Well-Being (work and family balance, satisfaction, social support, health and stress, social and professional relationships).
Project Documents and Learning Resources
2016 Trainings, Project Documents, and Learning Resources
- A Look at Social Sustainability Poster Session, July 26, 2016. The poster session was held as part of the annual Northeast SARE Summer Meetings and Tour. NE-SARE’s competitive grants portfolio extends beyond just innovative production strategies. Therefore, the poster session provided insight into NE-SARE’s investment in the “third leg” of the sustainability stool--social issues:--by featured a sampling of Vermont-led projects, funded by NE-SARE, that have addressed one or more of these themes. An Overview of the Session and Descriptions of the Individual Posters/NE-SARE Projects can be accessed here. Information on the highlighted projects may be found below.
- Breaking Barriers: Building Capacity to Provide Tractor Education. ENE13-127. (Presented by Beth Holtzman, University of Vermont Extension)
- Caring Dairy™ Program. Based on LNE06-243. (Presented by Andrea Asch, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream)
- The Community Market Project. CNE12-093. (Presented by Erin Buckwalter, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont)
- FarmRaisers: Raising Funds, Kids, and Crops in the Upper Valley. CNE13-110. (Presented by Becka Warren, Vital Communities)
- On-Line Farm to Workplace System. CNE13-107. (Presented by Amanda Landry, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link)
- The Root of the Problem: Enhancing Food Security among Latinx Farm Workers in Vermont. GNE15-109. (Presented by Jessie Mazar, University of Vermont Dept. of Anthropology)
- Social Sustainability in Agriculture through Engineering: Highlights of 3 NE-SARE Projects. ONE06-053, ONE13-176, and ONE15-230. (Presented by Chris Callahan, University of Vermont Extension)
- Social Sustainability on the Farm: Vermont State SARE Project. (Presented by Deb Heleba, University of Vermont Extension)
- Farmers, Change, and Resilience with Drs. Sharon Danes and Bob Milligan. Webinar Recorded June 8, 2016.
- Supporting the Health of the Farm and the Health of the Farm Family with Dr. Leslie Forstadt. Webianr Recorded April 27, 2016.
- Transferring the Farm: Getting Started with Dr. Bob Parsons. Webinar Recorded March 16, 2016.
- Transferring the Farm: Tools You Can Use with Dr. Bob Parsons. Webinar Recorded March 23, 2016.
Additional Project Resources and Documents
Trainings for Extension personnel and other agricultural service providers offered from 2012 to 2014 were structured as traditional professional development farm tours but with a twist – they included farmers as the training instructors, held discussions during and following farm visits, and expected participants to integrate lessons learned into their ongoing work. Over the course of the 3-year project, 101 Extension educators, ag service providers, and farmers participated in the trainings. Seventeen (17) University of Vermont Extension educators formed the core group of participants. In a follow-up survey of these core participants, all but one said they gained new knowledge regarding social issues that farm families face; 71% said they implemented changes in their work with farmers to include social sustainability topics as a result of what they learned. As a result, these efforts reached no fewer than 47 farmers; 27 farmers reported a better understanding of social issues and/or reported improvements of social issues on their farms, including increased communication with family members on management decisions; the inclusion of happiness and personal satisfaction as part of farm viability discussions; and the use of professional mediation for farm transitions.
- 2013 On-Farm Training (held in conjunction with the National Farm Viability Conference)
- 2012 On-Farm Training
Social Sustainability Indicator Study
- Executive summary of social sustainability and UVM Extension programming (February 2013).
- Annotated bibliography of social sustainability literature conducted by Dr. Jason Parker.
- Sampling of social sustainability questions used by UVM Extension programs (February 2013).
- Powerpoint presentation on social sustainability and UVM Extension programming (presented in February 2013).
- List of social sustainability questions brainstormed at the 2013 EPIC workshop (May 2013).
- Webinar: Evaluating Social Sustainability on the Farm with Dr. Diane Parent, Laval University