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Sustainable Farming Assessment Tool

The Sustainability Assessment Tool was developed on behalf of Natural England by the Organic Research Centre www.organicresearchcentre.com and the Institute of Organic Training and Advice www.organicadvice.org.uk  primarily to support farmers in their management decisions toward more sustainable farming.

The Tool is designed to provide a simple, measurable and accessible way to show the “sustainability” of organic and conventional farming systems and management.

The tool provides a measurable and qualitative system of recording the “sustainability” of an individual farm over a given time period. It is designed to achieve active engagement of the  land manager whilst also being accessible to the general public. It is useful as an advisory tool to identify how a farm is doing and to identify priority areas for improvement.

A cobweb (radar) diagram allows the results of the assessment to be quickly understood by the farmer and by recalculating with planned changes or repeating the assessment after a year or so effectively shows at a glance changes to “Public goods” secured over time. It assesses the output or performance of the farm where ever possible, not merely the standards to which it conforms. By the use of several indicators it assesses each of the following 11 categories:

*Biodiversity
*Landscape & heritage features
*Soil management
*Water management
*Nutrient management
*Energy & carbon
*Food security
*Agricultural systems diversity
*Social capital
*Farm business resilience
*Animal health & welfare

For example it undertakes a nutrient budget which shows if there is a nutrient deficit or surplus across the farm, it reviews soil analysis to identify if there are soil carbon or nutrient increases or decreases over time and it looks at animal health performance in terms of lameness and mastitis incidence.
The audit normally requires between half and one day on farm, plus travel, preparation and completion.

For further information contact Mark Measures, Cow Hall Newcastle Craven Arms SY7 8PG 01588 640118 mark@organicadvice.org.uk

Farm Sustainability Assessment Tool
: Example farm results

Cobweb (0 is poor performance, 5 is good)

© Organic Research Centre (ORC)