In mid-July, Manomet and Cabot Creamery Cooperative hosted a week-long virtual dialogue of key stakeholders to gain feedback and insight on how to improve the Vital Capital Index For Dairy Agriculture (VCI) 3.0.
The original, VCI 1.0, was designed in 2009 and aimed to help dairy farmers assess, benchmark and manage the sustainability of their operations. From energy use to the quality of life on the farm, the VCI looks at sustainability through a triple bottom line lens. Farmers examine 12 different stewardship topics which equally address the environmental, social and economic viability on their farm.
Practicing the tool’s model of continuous improvement, Manomet and Cabot organized the dialogue as a method to get insight on how to improve the effectiveness of VCI for identifying, measuring and managing dairy farm sustainability.
The VCI has gone from 1.0 to 3.0 and now finally 4.0. Compared to VCI 1.0, VCI 4.0 has reduced the number of stewardship topics from 22 to 12 and the number of indicators from over 200 to 80. VCI 4.0 helps farmers communicate about sustainability to supply chains and stakeholders and benchmark their operations. It is organized to help users benchmark their awareness, practices, and performance and ultimately the sustainability of their dairy.
Over the course of seven days, 27 people participated in the virtual discussion which was led by Cabot’s Director of Sustainability Jed Davis and Manomet’s Director of Sustainable Economies Program Andy Whitman. Participants included scientists, technical experts and various stakeholders from industry and environmental groups.
While the reviewers found the tool to be comprehensive and strategically educational for farmers, they recommended that the deployment of the tool be more integrated within the dairy community and the language be more farmer-friendly throughout the tool.
Whitman remarked that the, “Feedback from the technical reviewers and stakeholders is very helpful. It suggests that we are on the right track, but have opportunity for practical improvement.”
The VCI team is currently implementing some of the suggestions they received from the review and are looking to gain more feedback from other experts and stakeholders in the near future.
To learn more about the dialogue, access the infographic produced by Convetit here.