FSF Climate-Smart Program Empowers Farmers

Farmers for Sustainable Food (FSF) in partnership with Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, fully opened enrollment in the their Climate-Smart Program earlier this month.

The purpose of the five-year program is to establish and support farmer-led projects in the Upper Midwest focused on documenting conservation practices aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon in the soil. Farmers receive financial stipends of between $1,500 and $9,000 per year depending on their level of involvement. Participants who go all-in also get connected with supply chain partners, such as a processor, with the goal of realizing added value for their milk downstream in the supply chain.

Initial funding for the program comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grant that Edge was awarded and is administering.

“This presents an incredible opportunity for farmers to take control of their own future as they adapt to an evolving marketplace, one that increasingly demands sustainably produced food,” Tim Trotter, CEO of Edge, said. “We have developed a program that supports farmers in their environmental stewardship and, as a result, creates a competitive advantage.”

FSF and Edge for years have been helping farmers to establish on-farm environmental sustainability projects and to work collectively in local farmer-led watershed conservation groups.

Farmers in Control

The Climate-Smart Program differentiates from many other sustainability programs because it doesn’t dictate any specific practices, Lauren Brey, FSF’s managing director, said.

“Our program goal is to help farmers learn to use measurement and analysis tools to make data-driven management decisions that are right for their farm when incorporating new sustainability practices,” she said.

Brey said the program also takes farmer involvement to the next level by incorporating other entities in the supply chain, including dairy processors. Those processors have the opportunity to spearhead projects. Likewise, FSF and Edge will support farmers in sharing their outcomes with processors to help realize additional value at the end-user stage.

“We see this as a true added value to those who enroll in our program,” Brey said.

The farmers participating in this project are creating a value-added product for everyone in the supply chain just by sharing the data, regardless of whether it meets sustainability benchmarks.

Stipends are investment

The financial incentive in the Climate-Smart Program is recognition that implementing or expanding new farming practices comes with costs, Trotter said.

“We don’t want affordability to be a deterrent or to impede progress,” he said.


Farmers can enroll in the Farmers for Sustainable Food Climate-Smart Program through one of three channels:

  • Member of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative
  • Membership in a local farmer-led watershed group that participates in FSF
  • Dairy processor or another
    organization-led project

Financial compensation is based on the farm’s participation level:

  • Contributor: Participants complete a simple greenhouse gas and carbon assessment based
    on current on-farm practices. No additional requirements. Contributors receive $1,500 per year of participation.
  • Cultivator: Participants take a deeper dive into their farm data through more in-depth assessments of farming practices using tools such as the Fieldprint Platform, COMET-Farm
    or other approved assessment tools. Cultivators receive an additional $3,000 for a total of $4,500 per year.
  • Collaborator: Farmers who help connect the supply chain by sharing data with downstream partners, such as processors, to help generate added value for commodities. Collaborators receive an additional $4,500 for a total of $9,000 per year.

Enrollment: Farmers interested in enrolling should send an email to climate-smart@voiceofmilk.com.