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Sugar beet growers set their sights on sustainability

Apr 01, 2021
By Hayley Tanner

Sustainability and verification practices are top of mind these days as more consumers question where their food comes from.

Years ago, investigating the origin of your food and determining if it was produced in a sustainable manner wasn’t quite so easy. Today, consumers have the power of social media and the Internet at their fingertips to help them in their quest for answers.

Enter the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) tool. The FSA focuses on all aspects of sustainability including social, economic and environmental factors. The standardized FSA questionnaire provides producers with the tools and skills necessary to successfully implement sustainable production practices.

The Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) are among the producers and organizations who have chosen to use the FSA tool to assess sustainability performance.

After meeting the initial FSA requirements, the ASBG was tasked with finding 30-area farmers to become part of a ‘farm management group.’ The group then participated in a 90-question survey encompassing everything from business planning to environmental protection. A grade was assigned for each category.

Transparency in agricultural production is vital and “the (FSA) checklist is broken down into the different areas that make up sustainability,” said Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director of the ASBG.

“Because sustainability and verification is so new, once we communicated why we were (using the FSA tool), the consumers were asking for it.”

“There are three (FSA) levels: bronze, silver and gold. We are at the silver level,” Garner-Skiba said of the ASBG. “Our goal is to look at what we need to change in order to get to gold.… We would love for people to understand we’re sustainably produced and pick our bag over other sugars.”

The only company in Canada that produces sugar from sugar beets is Roger’s Sugar at the Lantic Inc. refinery in Taber, Alta.

Consumers interested in purchasing this specialty sugar can seek out a special mark on the sugar bag.

“You just look for the black stamp that starts with ‘22’ and you know that’s beet sugar,” Garner-Skiba said.

“What’s really cool about those bags is … they’ve all been farmed in an ethical and sustainable manner because of the FSA.”

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