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Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform
The global food value chain initiative for sustainable agriculture

Members projects

Caring Dairy - Sustainable agriculture for dairy farmers in the Netherlands and in the USA

Company : Ben&Jerry's (Unilever)
Groups : 2 Farmer coops, CONO (NL) & St. Albans Cooperative (US); WWF (NL), the Society for Nature and Environment and Solidaridad (NL), Manomet Center for Conservation Science (USA)

Ben & Jerry’s Caring Dairy program, both in the US and NL, offers farmers a practical framework for understanding, evaluating, and continuously improving the sustainability of their dairy operations based on economic, social and environmental criteria.

Caring Dairy enables farmers to evaluate their farms against a comprehensive set of key criteria or “sustainability Indicators”:

- Soil fertility and health,
- Soil loss,
- Nutrients,
- Pest management,
- Biodiversity,
- Farm Economics,
- Energy,
- Water,
- Social Human Capital,
- Impact on Local Economy and
- Animal Husbandry/Welfare

Recognizing that there are very practical differences in dairy farming in the Northeastern part of the US compared to the Netherlands, B&J's understand they have mutual goals yet perhaps different means of measuring results.

Mutual Goals:

- Support sustainable & safe methods of food production;
- Educate consumers on the importance of sustainable sourcing/dairy farming;
- Create a “sustainable dairy farming standard”;
- Provide collective leadership in the dairy industry through our partnership with dairy producers;
- Provide an easy to use, value-added program;
- Incentivize farmer participation through an annual premium

Process:

  1. Integrated approach: What the program defines as “Happy cows, Happy Farmers and Happy planet” results is a woven fabric of sustainability.
  2. Continuous improvement: Through the development of a baseline, targeted workshops and annual improvement plans, there is an on-going journey towards a more sustainable dairy farm.
  3. Bottom-up approach: Farmers are involved in the project development and annual feedback.
  4. Knowledge based: Workshops are organized based on various factors; farmer interests, results of the baseline assessment and current issues. Farmers are provided support in these areas through outside resources.

In 2012, Ben 7 Jerry will complete an overall harmonization of the two programs so that they can collectively measure results from farms.

In the US, they have completed two years of data collection.  The data collected was analyzed in terms of where farmers have improved over their initial year of participation in the program and the current year.  A brief summary of the second year reveal the following:

The results from 2012 are consistent with the 2011data indicating that the group of farms in the Caring Dairy program are overall good financial managers, are focused on animal husbandry and are involved and supportive of their local economies.  The areas where general improvement should be focused are pest management and social and human capital.  Within these two sections the questions that had the lowest average score were related to public and groups visiting farms, workers sanitation, general safety and farm safety training, pest identification, pesticide selection and record keeping and habitat.

In addition, in 2012 B&J's have added a set of metrics and global KPI’s.  This data should provide further insight as to how farmers can continually improve to reduce impacts and improve production.

In 2012, B&J's are completing their newly updated website to share more information about the Caring Dairy Program.

For details on the EU Caring Dairy program (US site is under development), please see the following http://www.benjerry.co.uk/caringdairy/index.php