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Update: Pilot Participants Share Feedback on 2011 Metric Revisiosn

Staff, Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops


During the last week of March, 20 of the 36 grower operations that participated in the 2010 pilot joined Stewardship Index staff and Coordinating Council (CC) members on a series of webinars. The goal of these webinars was to ensure that the metrics are practical and useful to the farming operations and marketing programs of the growers who will use them.

Pilot participants discussed the following questions:

  • Which metrics are most meaningful to your farming operation?
  • How should the draft metrics be improved?
  • How can data collection be made easier?

It was instructive to hear directly from the growers who are testing the Stewardship Index metrics in their operations. Input from these webinars will be considered carefully as we revise metrics and data collection approaches.

In February, the CC agreed to advance a select list of fully developed and tested metrics for release in a SISC “Beta Version 1.0” for use in more widespread piloting.  This week, the CC discussed the results of the webinars and considered which metrics should be included in the Beta version.  There was agreement to include metrics for water, nutrients, energy and soil, although some (mostly minor) revisions to these will be proposed to the metric workgroups for comment. The CC will finalize the list of metrics to be included after considering comments from the relevant workgroups. We will continue to develop the metrics that are not included in the Beta version with the goal of including them in the future.

The goals of of the 2011 metrics pilot testing will be to  further evaluate their utility and practicality and tocollect enough data for a number of crops that the data can be anonymized, aggregated, and shared with pilot participants.  This will enable SISC to test assumptions about the value of aggregating and sharing data.

Some highlights from the recent webinars with pilot participants:

  • A large majority of the participants identified the soil, water use, energy and nutrients metrics are the most valuable to growers.. Most participating growers are already collecting substantial data in these categories. With a few exceptions, there was broad interest in piloting these metrics (with revisions) again in 2011.
  • Some growers see SISC metrics and as an opportunity to strengthen their data collection efforts in areas where they could use more knowledge about their operation and operating efficiency; organize or validate information they are already collecting; and get credit for work they are already doing. These participants expressed interest t re-piloting in 2011 and to continue following the SISC metric evolution process..
  • Other participants felt  that they are already collecting this data in other formats that are better suited to their management needs. Those growers would likely not use SISC metrics unless required to do so.
  • Simple calculator tools designed to increase ease of data collection and ease of input allocation at the field level will be a welcome addition to the 2011 pilot binder but only if the value of the information gathered outweighs the time and energy required to gather it. This is particularly relevant in terms of energy. Many growers felt that they would have to see and test such calculators before concluding if they were helpful.
  • One grower expressed strong interest in the creation of a questionnaire for the buyer members of the Coordinating Council about their sustainability performance and intended use of grower performance data, as an entre for more open discussions about sharing the cost of sustainability across the supply chain.
  • Multiple growers said that the core value of SISC metrics was in communicating to buyers the information they are already collecting, and the potential for relief of regulatory burden.