Farmers and food channel partners from throughout U.S. agriculture have launched FieldRise LLC to validate on-farm stewardship success, measure continual improvements and help farmers, the food chain and consumers ground the topic in sound science and economics.

FieldRise success is powered by metrics, new messages and proactive teamwork that foster healthier food chain relationships and sustainability outcomes.The field-level and whole-farm questionnaires take only about 40 minutes to complete. FieldRise also will help broaden the country’s sustainability focus beyond farms and supply chains to also encourage consumer food-sustainability progress.

FieldRise began as the National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (NISA), with farm groups and advisers from 12 commodity and direct-consumed crops from throughout the country serving as interim leaders. Ground-breaking sustainability measurement tools and educational materials were developed and field-tested, backed by powerful statistical analysis. In April 2014, NISA completed its 1,000-farmer, 1-million-acre pilot and transitioned from the University of Wisconsin to become a Wisconsin LLC in October 2014.

FieldRise founding partners are University of Wisconsin agriculture professors Dr. Jed Colquhoun, Dr. Shawn Conley, Dr. Paul Mitchell, and marketing and sustainability strategist John Osthus.

The launch is an opportunity for farm associations and food-chain organizations to become FieldRise founding members, says former NISA Board Member Ron Moore, a Roseville, Ill., crop and livestock farmer, who represented Illinois Soybean Association before moving into a director role at American Soybean Association. 

FieldRise support comes from membership fees from farm groups, the food chain, and other stakeholders. Founding members can lock in discounted rates.

“FieldRise is agriculture’s first farmer-founded, farmer-managed system that’s field-proven to measure practices that increase production, protect profit, benefit workers and enhance environmental protection,” Moore says. 

“FieldRise makes it easy for associations to offer farmers online questionnaires to assess their practices and plan for the future.  Farmers pay nothing to fill out the questionnaires and their personal information remains strictly confidential," Moore adds. "Food buyers have an increasing need for field data, and FieldRise is a new link in the sustainability food chain.  In coming years, the assessment data also could help industry preempt unhelpful regulations or costly certification schemes.”

“Working with leading University of Wisconsin crop scientists, agronomists and economists, NISA created a proven way to anchor farm sustainability in measurement that can withstand rigorous scrutiny,” adds Del Monte Research Fellow Brian Flood, Ph.D. “The resulting FieldRise program gives us closer relationships with growers, and yields information ranging from simple measures to advanced statistical analyses that help document our supply chain sustainability.”

The results also give farm groups and the food chain practical ideas for voluntary improvements that tie back to farm profit and the grower’s innate commitment to the environment and society, says Flood.

Moore says Illinois Soybean Association was one of the 12 founding farmer-led groups, and the data helped anchor the state’s leadership in farm-to-family sustainability communications. “NISA proved that farmers throughout agriculture already are advanced in sustainability practices, and pilot members also received solid data to help us keep improving.”

Moore emphasizes the questionnaires are customized for each commodity, and members can suggest questions.  All members get aggregated data.  Soon, participating farmers can opt for a confidential individual scorecard to see how they compare with their peers or to help plan for the future.  Repeating the questionnaires every couple of years helps chart progress, he adds.
 
“The FieldRise system delivers unsurpassed ease of use and field-proven farmer acceptance,” Moore concludes.