Social Sustainability on the Farm: Focus on Resilience

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $44,444.00
Funds awarded in 2015: $44,444.00
Funds awarded in 2016: $46,111.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
State Coordinator:
Debra Heleba
University of Vermont Extension

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, networking
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will build on initial efforts of our state programming by focusing on social sustainability issues that affect farm families. These include:

    • Quality of Life: social and environmental qualities that impact individuals
    • Social Integration: alignment of values, interaction, and sense of place in a community
    • Farm Succession: successful transfer of the farm to the next generation
    • Entrepreneurship: vision, innovativeness and adaptability
    • Equity: access to information, expertise & support, capital

    For this project, a specific emphasis will be placed on the concept of resiliency especially as it applies to farmers attempting to cope with and adapt to a changing climate.

    Preliminary work suggests that farm level and community stability are critical to the long-term sustainability of Vermont’s agriculture.  Most sustainability research and outreach successfully integrates economic and environmental dimensions in defining the scope of a sustainable future, but social dimensions are vaguely defined and not well-integrated into research and outreach. Finally, we recognize the increasing importance for Extension to document all of the benefits resulting from our work. Our impact on social issues are often undervalued.

    All farmers will address at least one social sustainability issue listed above. A service provider survey administered by a collaborating organization in January 2014 found that of the 19 responses, 41% expressed interest in intermediate training on quality of life factors; 39% expressed interest in intermediate training on human resources; and 37% expressed interest in beginning level training of farm succession.

    Further, following weather anomalies over the past 3 years, several (no fewer than 8) service providers have expressed a need for more training on helping farmers develop resiliency skills

    Performance targets from proposal:

    20 Extension educators and other service providers will increase their knowledge of social sustainability issues that farm families face; 5 will implement a change in their current work to include social sustainability topics and will teach no fewer than 20 total service providers what they learned as a result; 5 will include social sustainability indicators in their program evaluation and reporting.

    50 farmers better understand how social sustainability issues affect their businesses and families. 30 are better able to cope with and/or adapt with climate change through increased resiliency.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.