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Farm benchmarking programs will move Vermont’s food system towards important sustainability outcomes by establishing enhanced monitoring of priority indicators and facilitating the adoption of best practices. Farmers, researchers, policy agencies and development professionals agree there is a lack of regular and consistent data available to guide private and public initiatives. This paper identifies and contextualizes over forty priority indicators capable of measuring business performance, conservation, farm labor and community development.

Benchmarking methods need to be adapted to better represent the diversity of enterprises present in Vermont’s agricultural portfolio. The integration of University Extension objectives with food systems research priorities can catalyze collaborations, educational support and dissemination that ensure both rigorous research and increased likelihood of behavioral change at the enterprise level. This paper describes data collection methods, informational technology, agricultural sector context and features of analysis findings that are appropriate for a range of populations and research goals. Furthermore, this paper demonstrates the necessity of linking enterprise level indicators with broader community and economic development indicators to assess and deploy strategic public policy responses that embody the desired food system values.

Small cohort business benchmark programs and a single conservation data research clearinghouse are proposed as appropriate next steps for the UVM‐ARS Center for Food Systems to pursue.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.