Blue Diamond Growers, Presents Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program for the INC Sustainability Award


Company/organization and country: Blue Diamond Growers, USA

Type of project: Business implementation

SDG(s) relevant to the project: 2, 15

Topic(s): Supply chain transparency and traceability, nature-positive approaches and regenerative agriculture, water management.

Product(s): Almonds

Project end date and duration: 26/08/2022 (Annual cadence; 2020-2030)

Abstract: The Blue Diamond Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program (OSIP) is a science-based program of best practice information designed to optimize almond orchard management while minimizing risk of negative environmental and social impacts. This program provides a financial incentive to Member-growers who choose to participate. The practices involved in the OSIP are selected by Blue Diamond to document the high level of performance executed by our members on these issues and thereby communicate that standard to the marketplace, government officials, and other relevant parties.

The OSIP is a voluntary annual program that was first launched by Blue Diamond in 2020. Members who choose to participate in OSIP are required to submit materials every year to verify their adherence to program standards. The OSIP consists of three different tiers of grower financial incentives aimed at grower assessment against best agriculture sustainability practices, encouraging continual education and improving farming practices. Each tier has a set of criteria that Member-growers must adhere to. To fulfil the practices required for the top tier, Member-growers must complete all modules on the California Almond Stewardship Platform (CASP), utilize the Cool Farm Tool for a carbon assessment of their farm, and receive Bee Friendly Farming Certification (BFF®).

CASP is a program of the Almond Board of California and is comprised of hundreds of best practices that include pest, soil, ecosystem, financial and irrigation management, community and bee health, air quality, and energy efficiency. The Cool Farm Tool is an online calculator that assesses the carbon footprint of the farm and enables informed decision-making that helps reduce farms’ environmental footprint. Lastly, BFF® is awarded by the Pollinator Partnership and recognizes and encourages landowners to protect, preserve and promote pollinator health. Certification involves a significant annual commitment to pollinator ecosystems. Growers must provide pollinator forage on at least 3% of their acres, provide fresh water sources for pollinators, have year-round pollinator habitat for native pollinators and use practices to protect pollinators from encountering pesticides. These are the three components of Blue Diamond’s Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program, which serve to ensure a comprehensive approach in measuring on farm sustainable agriculture practices. The financial incentives for each tier are designed to encourage participation and to acknowledge the investment required by members.

Blue Diamond Growers believes that what the world calls “sustainable agriculture” is rooted in the practical, daily care that farmers invest in stewarding their orchard for the future of their families and their communities. The activities promoted as sustainable should result, in the long term, in orchards that are more efficient, financially profitable, better for regional air and water resources, and with soil which will remain healthy and viable for generations to come. This is reflected in the use of the term Orchard Stewardship “Incentive Program”.

Outcomes: The following outcomes reference data from Fiscal Year 2022 for the OSIP. In 2022, our Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program paid over $1.74 million directly to growers. The OSIP now covers 40% of all Blue Diamond member acres, representing more almond acres in a sustainability program than any other company in the world. An impressive majority of Blue Diamond member orchards participating in OSIP have incorporated water-saving technology –over 90% report using efficient micro-irrigation systems– this figure is nearly two times the rate found in other California crops. The program has also created a benefit for biodiversity and pollinators —29% of Blue Diamond orchards have reported planting cover crops for soil quality and 11% of Blue Diamond grower acres are Bee Friendly Farming certified. Blue Diamond is targeting 15% Bee Friendly Farming certified farm acreage by 2025 to continue increasing our impact. We are proud of the combination of expert partnerships and Blue Diamond’s industry-leading commitment to the ecosystems within and surrounding our orchards, and we look forward to further expanding investments and participation in these efforts.

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