About the Project

2013 Social Sustainability on the Farm Tour

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 trainings and follow-up activities for University of Vermont Extension agriculture personnel. The project started in 2011 and will end in 2014.

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 will, therefore, help 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. 

Social sustainability topics the project will address include: 
  • Entrepreneurship (including business formation, use of advisory services, vision, human resources management),
  • Farm succession (business continuity, retirement and estate planning, land transfers), 
  • Quality of life (work and family balance, satisfaction, social support, health and stress, social and professional relationships), 
  • Social integration (contribution in local services, quality of non‐agricultural relationships, social contribution, and regional presence of agriculture), and
  • Equity (farmer access to capital, land, technical assistance, and other services).
These issues were identified and used by a social sustainability assessment for dairy farmers developed in Quebec, one of only a few in North America to assess social sustainability at the farm level.

The trainings are structured as traditional professional development farm tours but with a twist – they include subject matter experts, focus on farmers as the training instructors, hold discussions during and following farm visits, and expect participants to integrate lessons learned into their ongoing work.