The Food Systems Research Center (FSRC) is proud to support researchers from across UVM who are studying issues in the broad food system. We fund faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Find out more about our funded work below!

Areas of Research

Sustainability of Small and Medium Farms

Viable working landscapes, vibrant communities, and healthy ecosystems are the building blocks of sustainable food systems. But how do you measure sustainability at local and regional food systems? These white papers explore the opportunities for measuring sustainability (social, economic and environmental) in small and medium farms and food systems. Additional work is ongoing to synthesize the metrics and indicators from the white papers for a comprehensive understanding of sustainability assessment at these scales.

Sustainability of Small and Medium Farms

An agroecology principles framework to assess and monitor farm and food system sustainability

Principal Investigator: Martha Caswell

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, describes agroecology as a “...a coherent concept for designing future farming systems...strongly rooted both in science and in practice”. As an approach that is gaining traction and credibility across the globe, agroecology is based on principles that represent multiple expressions of the three dimensions of sustainability. Recognized rural sociologist Jan Douwe van der Ploeg argues that individuals’ decisions to follow agroecological principles are “...inspired by different motives, values and discourses, just as the particular contextual settings will have their specific imprint.” Existing sustainable agriculture frameworks that offer coherent structures for identifying, measuring and tracking sustainability indicators can be compared across contexts to identify the levers for real systemic change. Assessing the multiple frameworks of agroecological principles offers an opportunity to innovate, as the principles span socio-cultural, environmental, political and economic factors. In this project, we will reduce the common divide between natural and social science; instead looking for ways to recognize their dependencies by delving into relationships between social and biophysical metrics. To further this objective, we plan to include metrics that will explore the subtle but important potential non-material benefits of farms (e.g., community-building, educational, and spiritual benefits). The end result will be the identification of ‘keystone factors’, related to agroecological principles, farmer practices and indicators, which will serve to show farmers their relative strengths and areas for potential improvement across sustainability metrics and components of the food system.

View White Paper


Investigating the relationships of food system sustainability: Measuring and documenting health and resilience of small and medium farms in Vermont and Puerto Rico

Principal Investigator: Walt Poleman

What bolsters the resilience of smaller farms to sustain themselves during times of economic, geo-climatic and socio-political unrest? This project aims to illuminate the elements of success and well-being by investigating the role of small and medium farms in promoting healthy social-agricultural systems. We will conduct work in the dual geographies of Vermont and Puerto Rico and examine how humans interact with each other and integrate with the non-human world in the production and distribution of food. Building on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Principles of Agroecology as organizing frameworks we have developed a five-phase work that includes: conducting background research on metrics, indicators and integration tools of agricultural sustainability, engaging growers to inquire about their daily work and interactions, conducting focus group interviews and coding responses to understand key practices involved with cultivating healthy food systems, conducting panel discussions with participants from both geographies, and integrating the findings to develop the white paper for presentation to the Food Systems Center. To accomplish this work have assembled a diverse team of researchers and practitioners from Vermont and Puerto Rico, and we will also draw on the strength of strategic partners such as the Vermont Vegetables and Berry Growers Association and the Caribbean Climate Hub. The outcomes of this work align with collaborative efforts being advanced by the Global Network of Research Centers of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development, and will improve understanding of sustainability outcomes at the intersection of human and ecological health.

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The farm-community nexus: Metrics for socioeconomic and ecosystems sustainability of agritourism and direct farm sales in Vermont

Principal Investigator: Lisa Chase

Viable working landscapes, vibrant communities, and healthy ecosystems are the building blocks of sustainable food systems. Small and medium farms are connective tissue, creating a system that is greater than the sum of its parts by linking consumers to producers and promoting environmental stewardship. Our approach considers sustainability through connections between farms, their communities, and visitors within an agritourism framework, ranging from on-farm experiences to direct sales and farmer-consumer interactions at markets. The proposed white paper will contribute to the understanding, operationalization, and integration of metrics relevant to strong social foundations and just economies while preserving and promoting healthy ecosystems. Specific objectives include:

  1. Apply a sustainability framework, Doughnut Economics, to identify metrics relevant for social, economic, and environmental dimensions across farm, household, community, county, and statewide scales.
  2. Identify existing data sets and current data gaps.
  3. Identify linkages and impacts between social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability across scales and different frameworks and vet the approach with stakeholders.

By integrating frameworks to measure the range of benefits (and tradeoffs) provided by direct interactions between farmers, visitors, and consumers, we will aggregate information over time, locations, and enterprise types. Spearheaded by a team of UVM researchers, and assessed by a group of stakeholders who use metrics to guide policy decisions, this work will provide an essential foundation for future research that will place the UVM ARS Food Systems Research Unit at the forefront of this growing and critical transdisciplinary area.

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Developing sustainability metrics for hemp in the Vermont economy: Environment, landscape, and community development

Principal Investigator: Jane Kolodinsky

We focus on how emerging value-added crops contribute to sustainable food systems. This project develops indicators for an important emerging crop in Vermont, hemp. Once developed, the process and measures can be used for decision making about any crop. Vermont Farm to Plate 2020 identifies hemp as one of ten important agricultural products important for Vermont’s future. We use a set of design principles to insure the applicability of developed indicators for decision making. For the purposes of this proposal, indicators are “a way to measure, indicate or point to with more or less exactness,” or “something used to show the condition of a system.” Our objectives are to:

  1. Develop a set of indicators that measure the economic, social, and environmental contribution of hemp in Vermont.
  2. Identify a set of measurement techniques and data sources that contribute to the indicators identified in objective 1.
  3. Consider the levels of measurement of data and cross-cutting aspects of indicators in order to inform the on-going discussions of data interaction and integration.

Our approach is grounded in both the FAO food systems model and in Doughnut Economics, which utilizes the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a foundation to describe “social floors” and “planetary boundaries. Our work plan involves a two-day virtual workshop with required reading prior to the event, and includes both University researchers and stakeholders representing production, industry, finance, government and NGOs. A white paper will be developed using an iterative process based on results from the virtual workshop.

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Farm benchmarking: Integrated research, extension and adoption

Principal Investigator: Mark Canella

The “Farm Benchmarking: Integrated Research, Extension and Adoption” white paper will provide an indicator framework and methodology for the research and dissemination of findings leading to measurable outcomes in Vermont. This project will present a framework of on-farm metrics, methods, statistical approaches and dissemination strategies to facilitate implementation of best practices by farm owners, program leaders and policy makers. Stakeholder engagement will identify the primary metrics needed to assess farm viability, conservation outcomes, management adaptation and the community impacts of farm labor. The multi-disciplinary team will prepare sample statistical outputs and develop sample programmatic deployment matrices geared toward outreach and adoption.

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Resilient soils for resilient farms: Soil health for small- and medium-sized farms

Principal Investigator: Deb Neher

Healthy soils are critical to feeding people and support broad environmental goals, including improved water quality and carbon sequestration. We assembled a multidisciplinary team of UVM tenure-track, research and extension faculty with a common interest in improving the performance of small- and medium- sized farms through monitoring soil health. Our long-term goal is to develop practical applications to enable success in the context of ongoing environmental and economic challenges and benefit the agricultural landscape. We propose an innovative research agenda that combines advancements in basic science (e.g., soil microbiome), new technologies (e.g., sensors to monitor metrics of soil health and environmental quality), devising new soil management tools, and ecological economics as a tool to quantify the value of soil health to society.

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Embeddedness, Regional Food Systems, and Measures of Social Sustainability

Principal Investigator: Amy Trubek

Social relationships are crucial to the functioning of small and medium farms, and social motivations are intricately linked with economic processes, environmental stewardship, and agriculture and community resilience in regional food systems. However, because social aspects of food systems are difficult to measure, their quantification in analyses of food systems sustainability lacks robustness and nuance. For the UVM Center for Food Systems Research to be a leader in comprehensive understandings of sustainability, its future work must incorporate a range of social metrics, including community networks and norms, informal labor and economic exchanges, land stewardship and ecological management, and other motivations yet to be adequately captured by conventional metrics of economic and environmental sustainability.

We propose an extensive review of existing social science research, along with engagement with stakeholders, to better depict these aspects of food systems that have yet to be comprehensively documented. The resulting white paper will: a) provide a range of social metrics essential for understanding social sustainability, b) conceptualize how these relate to economic and environmental sustainability, c) articulate strategies for measuring social aspects of sustainability empirically, d) identify gaps in current metrics, and e) put forth frameworks to guide their integration with economic and ecological measurements. Our interdisciplinary team—comprised of food systems researchers with expertise in place-based agriculture, ecological and applied economics, working landscapes, community-based food innovations, and systems modeling—is uniquely positioned to offer insight into these aspects of sustainability that are critical to the Center’s future success.

View White Paper

COVID-19 Research Grants

COVID-19 affected food systems at many scales. Local and regional food systems were both impacted but also demonstrated resilience in many ways. These grants explored the effects of COVID-19 on local and regional food systems, and lessons for resilience.

COVID-19 Research Grants

Impacts of COVID-19: Harnessing a critical window of opportunity to prepare farmers for shifts in consumer behavior

PI: Roy Desrochers

What did the study find?
The researchers analyzed consumer behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic to try and inform farmers in decision making for the future. Data shows consumers want food products with high quality sensory features and prefer supporting local food producers and businesses, as well as looking to them as standards of quality and innovation. Vermonters report they will spend more time eating at restaurants and less time getting take out at the conclusion of the pandemic. This information provides local farmers, producers, and restaurants with critical information of the Vermont food landscape moving forward.

What were the impacts?

  • Study produced preliminary data that aided in the award of a $60,000 USDA Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program grant
  • Data from study was reported at 11 different outreach events, providing information to farmers, producers, and restaurants in Vermont
  • Enabled researchers to make valuable connections with critical members of Vermont food systems

Stay up-to-date on the work Roy is leading


Increasing food agency and resilience to food insecurity for college students through community cooking and learning

PI: Qingbin Wang


What did the study find?
This project sought to determine if a learn-to-cook meal kit with a food agency intervention can increase food agency and resilience among undergraduate students in the face on unprecedented events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Data showed an educational intervention positively influenced student food agency and meal kit program enhanced student attitudes toward valuation of local foods. Researchers also found those in the intervention group reported a greater willingness to participate in on-campus food programs.

What were the impacts?

  • One publication is in preparation
  • Generated three unique datasets that can be used for analysis
  • Team is continuing to expand this line of research and are working on various outreach strategies
  • Stay up-to-date on Qingbin's work


Assessing Vermont farm and food sector COVID impacts, pivots and future needs

PI: Meredith Niles

What did the study find?
The research team surveyed farmers and food producers to assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as gauge the needs of these groups and inform future policy to provide assistance to those impacted. This study provided critical information on food access and security in Vermont during the pandemic, displaying a decrease in food security in 2020. Importantly, this study directly resulted in political impact, with the researchers being invited to present findings to the Vermont Senate and House Agricultural Committees, as well as Lt. Governor of Vermont, Molly Gray.

What were the impacts?


Social and economic factors and resilience in Vermont’s food system: Critical lessons from COVID-19

PI: Suzy Hodgson

What did the study find?
This project explored the social and economic factors affecting Vermont farmers before and during COVID-19 to determine the extent and strength of social ties and resilience among farmers. Found 62% of farmers surveyed identified operations as sustainable and 80% of farmers saw a change in total production during the pandemic (39.39% increase, 40.4% decrease), with 93% reporting increased estimated profits from 2019 to 2020. Found 17% decrease in paid employees and a 22% decrease in volunteer labor from 2019 to 2020.

What were the impacts?


Seeds of resilience: Learning from COVID-19 to strengthen seed systems in Vermont

PI: Dan Tobin

What did the study find?
Using an interdisciplinary approach, this research sought to highlight and enhance seed system resilience in Vermont with a focus on learning from COVID-19 associated disruptions and analyzing the pandemic’s short- and long-term impacts within the Northeast. Results showed that 52% of individuals surveyed reported difficulty in obtaining seeds. In response to shortages and delays from the commercial seed sector, growers coped by switching the species and varieties they grew and seeking out alternative sources of seed. Researchers also found that many Vermonters took innovative steps to enhance the local availability of seeds during the pandemic, including the creation of online seed catalogs for low-income families, instituting new seed libraries, and providing free online seed-saving workshops to help improve access to healthy food during the pandemic despite commercial disruptions.

What were the impacts?


Understanding food access impacts from COVID-19 in Vermont and beyond

PI: Meredith Niles

What did the study find?
A project utilizing datasets to determine the impact of COVID-19 food security on rural and urban regions. The study provided critical data on food security during the pandemic, including home procurement and diet quality. Findings showed charitable feeding systems helped participants to maintain fruit and vegetable intake during the pandemic.

What were the impacts?

  • Three papers published, one in pre-print, one in review
  1. Impact of home food procurement on food security and diet quality in BMC Public Health
  2. Early impacts of COVID-19 on food insecurity in Nutrients
  3. The role of food banks and pantries in aiding in fruit and vegetable intake in food insecure participants in Frontiers in Nutrition
  4. Food insecurity and COVID-19 across multiple states in medRxiv
  • Four news articles
  1. Food insecurity and the pandemic by WCAX3
  2. Long-lasting impacts of the pandemic on food insecurity by My Champlain Valley
  3. SNAP increases for Vermonters facing food insecurity by the VTDigger
  4. One in three Vermonters faced food insecurity during the pandemic by VPR
  • Seven policy briefs and six presentations at various meetings and conferences
  • One grant from the Gund Institute for Environment and Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network Joint Catalyst Award and the drafting and submission of two others awaiting review
  • Stay up-to-date on Meredith’s research
  • Follow Meredith on Twitter


Agility in the face of disruption: Food business rapid response to COVID-19

PI: David Conner

What did the study find? 
A project focused on investigating intermediate supply chain actors, notable processors and distributors, and food service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Found local farm-to-table restaurants, food service providers, and hospitals overcame supply chain issues utilizing local vendors and producers, with these groups relying heavily on government sources, person-to-person connections, and local food organizers. Researchers discovered strong trust in information sources and connections pre-pandemic resulted in strong ability to adapt to hardships brought on by the pandemic.

What were the impacts?


Refugee communities and food security in response to COVID-19

PI: Pablo Bose

This study explored and assessed levels of food insecurity in refugee populations living in Chittenden County, VT as a result of and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Found the pandemic significantly impacted New Americans’ food security, with 80% of survey respondents reporting receiving support from a food bank or free food organization and 87% reporting utilizing these services on a weekly basis. Researchers found providing culturally appropriate foods to New Americans was particularly successful and expansion in this area would be beneficial.

What were the impacts?

  • Resulted in 4 presentations at the Refugee and Immigrant Service Providers Network meeting, the Translational Global Infectious Diseases Research Program meeting, the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, and the Just Food Conference and publications are in preparation
  • Piloted a vegetable box food delivery program to migrant farmworkers in the Northeast Kingdom in the summer of 2021
  • Developing an online and mobile tool to expand food accessibility and food guide for immigrants arrivals in Vermont with local distributors, recipients, and retailers
  • Stay up-to-date on Pablo's research

Sustainable Dairy Systems: Farm to Cup

Welcome to Vermont, where dairy is serious business! Because dairy is a major industry in Vermont, UVM and the USDA elected to use initial funding to fund six projects, each one with a postdoc, focused on a pressing issue in dairy. Here you will find information on the projects these postdocs and their principal investigators are conducting. Each project is unique in that it matches a postdoc with UVM scientists, or a team of UVM scientists, and a scientist working with the USDA. Brief descriptions of the projects are below.

Whole-farm dairy systems modeling: Adoption, Engagement, and Application

PIs: Asim Zia, Jane Kolodinsky, and Donna Rizzo

USDA Collaborator: Kevin Panke-Buisse

Modern dairy farms are complex systems that need sophisticated management to balance production, profitability, and environmental goals. These sustainability goals are often conflicting, and producers, farm advisors, and policy makers need systems-level information on options to balance the tradeoffs. Computer models like the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS), a next-generation, whole-farm model being developed to simulate dairy farm production and environmental impact, help inform systems-level thinking because they can evaluate many farm types and management practices quickly and cost-effectively. RuFaS has a range of potential applications, including as a research tool for scientists, a decision-aid tool for the dairy industry, and a learning tool for interested stakeholders. Currently, however, RuFaS does not consider the “human” element of these systems. The dairy industry is nucleated by human decisions: to produce; to consume. Ultimately, to realize full efficacy, tools like RuFaS must be informed by the external economic and behavioral barriers to adoption and engagement by stakeholders. This project will incorporate RuFaS into ongoing work at UVM focused on understanding data-informed decision-making by producers and the effects of incentivization. We will evaluate and improve upon RuFaS’s user interaction with model inputs and outputs to lower barriers to affecting sustainable change in dairy systems through cooperation with partner farms in the Northeast, Midwest, and Western US. Our work will probe questions about trade-offs in the level of detail in model inputs and outputs needed to build trust while minimizing time commitments, methods for communicating model predictions and the degree of uncertainty associated with those predictions, and effectiveness of participatory modeling to build trust and ownership in the decision support tool. The results of this work will inform a new practical decision-making graphical user interface of RuFaS that delineates for producers, stakeholders, and policymakers, the costs, requirements, and catalysts necessary for successful transitions to new management practices.


Metagenomics identifies the diversity and frequency of human pathogens and antimicrobial resistance genes in milk and the farm environment on small to medium sized dairy farms

PI: John Barlow

USDA Collaborators: Jo Ann Van Kessel and Bradd Haley

Food safety is a critical food systems issue, independent of the scale of the system. Foodborne illness outbreaks occur in
local decentralized food systems and large-scale centralized systems. Improved understanding of foodborne illness risk
requires collection and analysis of data describing the prevalence and diversity of human pathogens and antimicrobial
resistance genes. Developing novel approaches and systems to collect data on food safety hazards and risk factors is
critical to preventing foodborne illnesses. Metagenomic approaches have the potential to revolutionize pathogen
surveillance systems. These approaches may offer advantages compared to conventional culture-based systems,
including higher throughput, potential to collect more information on the community structure in diverse matrices, and
increased sensitivity. These potential advantages need verification in a diversity of food systems from farm-to-fork. This
project will explore the application of metagenomic methods of surveillance for sources of human pathogens and
antimicrobial resistance genes on small to medium sized dairy farms. We will characterize the microbiome and
resistome in raw milk and the farm environment in different farm systems using amplicon and shotgun metagenomics
approaches in parallel with culture-based approaches for selection and isolation of bacterial species and strains. The
anticipated outcome is identification of potential mitigation strategies that reduce the prevalence of foodborne
pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in dairy farm systems and their outputs.


Impact of genetics, diet and management practices on milk components

PI: Jana Kraft

USDA Collaborators: Naomi Fukagawa and Ken Kalscheur

Studies will be conducted to understand the impact of different types of forage and feed in the dairy cow ration on milk
production and the resulting nutritional composition of the milk. Types (grasses vs legumes), amounts, and quality of
forages will be fed to high-producing dairy cows (of different genetic backgrounds) to evaluate their impact on the
nutritional quality of milk. Both Holsteins and Jerseys will be used to determine if there are interactions of forages and
breed on the nutritional quality of milk. Intake, milk production and milk composition will be measured. In addition,
measures of nutrient utilization and feed efficiency will be determined to evaluate how soil/forage management can
impact nutrient utilization from the field to the cow. Rumen samples will also be obtained to evaluate the impact of
forages on the rumen microbiome. Milk samples will be collected and sent to human nutrition collaborators to evaluate
the impact of forage production on nutritional value of milk. The postdoctoral fellow will work to elucidate how different
forage and feed in the ration impacts milk composition in two breeds of cattle and how the rumen microbiome impacts
milk fat composition and functionality of dairy products. In addition, new methodologies to isolate and characterize
bioactive compounds in rumen microbes as well as in milk, such as the milk fat globule membrane, will be developed.


Precision agriculture and environmental impact of dairy cropping systems

PIs: Joshua Faulkner, Asim Zia, and Donna Rizzo

Researchers in Vermont are partnering with researchers in South Dakota in a recently funded, four-year, $3 million NSF
project that will use a unique approach to develop, test, and implement new precision agriculture tools and public
policies that are socially and economically feasible for farmers, rural communities, and the environment. The goal is to
use precision agriculture technologies to reduce environmental impacts and increase crop and livestock productivity.
While the focus will be on nitrates in South Dakota, university and USDA scientists will seek to reduce the environmental
impact of phosphorus through the use of sensor technologies in Vermont. Samples from approximately 70 Vermont soils
have been collected and submitted for soil health assessment within watersheds currently being monitored as part of
the existing Lake Champlain Basin CEAP Watersheds project. Our approach is to link soil health data to propensity to
produce runoff and P loss and use hyperspectral and multispectral data to extrapolate the assessment across
watersheds.  Specific objectives are to 1) Conduct a field assessment of soil health on a population of soils within three
watersheds that are being monitored as part of an ongoing USDA-funded Conservation Effects Assessment Project
(CEAP) study and link those data to propensity to produce runoff and P loss, 2) Collect hyperspectral and multispectral
data and use artificial intelligence to create algorithms that link these data to soil health data derived from the field
study, 3) Extrapolate soil health and P loss potential across the watersheds using hyperspectral and multispectral
sensors, and 4) Assess farmers’ acceptance of this technology.  The results of this study could potentially improve our
ability to assign environmental risk to specific fields and adjust management accordingly.


Precision Agriculture and High Throughput Phenotyping for Dairy Genetics

PI: Stephanie McKay

USDA Collaborator: Curt Van Tassell

This position will work on a project aimed at generating genetic merit predictions using existing data from infra-red
spectroscopy data of milk components. The successful candidate will integrate high-throughput phenotyping derived
from these existing data and available genotyping data to enable genomic selection and genome wide association
studies for economically important traits in dairy cattle. Scientists at the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory
have access to the National Dairy Database through a collaboration with the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, and this
data set is the largest collection of phenotypic, genetic, and genomic information on dairy cattle in the world. This data
repository recently surpassed 5 million animals with medium- to high-density genotypes available. Additional resources
available to the incumbent include the Cooperative Dairy DNA Repository and 1000 Bull Genomes data. Understanding
of genetic mechanisms enhanced through this research could contribute to selection strategies to better optimize
components in dairy products to meet the needs in human diets.


Sustainable intensification of forage-based dairy farms through improved forage production and feeding

PIs: Heather Darby and Sabrina Greenwood

USDA Collaborators: Kathy Soder

Homegrown forages are a critical aspect of farm performance in both pasture-based systems and confinement dairy
systems, as feed costs can exceed 50% of total operating expenses on dairy farms. Our research objectives are to 1)
examine and improve the performance of traditional and novel forages in the Northeast, and identify high-quality
forages that perform optimally under changing weather patterns, and 2) assess the impact of these forages and forage
combinations on primary (forage) and secondary (animal) productivity relative to environmental impact. The combined
results from these studies will provide dairy farmers with immediately applicable information regarding forage selection,
forage management, and feed management for improved primary and secondary performance, and environmental
impact. Project results will be especially critical to provide options for improving the sustainable intensification and
economic sustainability of forage-based dairy systems. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to lead
projects that use a combination of data mining, in vitro experimentation, small on-farm plot experiments, and in vivo
animal assessment to examine forage performance and animal productivity.
These assessments will aim to encompass aspects of the following:
1. Economic stability (lower feed costs)
2. Environmental stability (particularly perennial forages)
a. Climate change
b. Carbon sequestration
c. Water quality
d. Reduction of methane emissions
3. Sustainable Intensification when optimized (greater productivity on the same land base without harming the
4. Meeting specialty markets (e.g., organic/grass-fed, which can also impact #1 above)
5. Human health (e.g., fatty acid and/or protein profiles of meat and milk)
6. Social aspect (public prefers to see grazing cows and/or perennial forage fields rather than tilled annual crops)


Equipment Grants

Macro Sample CN Analyzer for the UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab

PI: Joshua Faulkner
The Macro Sample CN Analyzer will allow researchers to better quantify environmental sustainability of agricultural systems related to climate change mitigation and nutrient cycling in soils, as well as further facilitate research on sustainable food systems. It will increase UVM’s ability to accurately and efficiently analyze soil and soil health. This will aid in Faulkner’s work with climate change and farming and also serve the greater UVM community in conducting critical research to ensure agricultural systems are adapting to the pressures of climate change.

Hemp integrated agricultural systems—processing hemp fibers through decortication

PI: Steve Kostell
As hemp continues to expand, a need exists to better understand products made from hemp. A Fiber Track 118 Decorticator, a specialized machine for stripping materials to allow for further processing, will be purchased to fill this need. Specifically, Kostell and his team will use the decorticator to expand research into various aspects of hemp processing with the goal of learning more about the development of hemp-based quality crops, processes, and products. The decorticator can also serve a variety of other research endeavors and will have strong potential for use by researchers across UVM.

Expanding and maintaining testing services at the E. E. Cummings Crop Quality Laboratory

PI: Heather Darby
The E. E. Cummings Crop Quality Laboratory provides analysis for clients from every state in the Northeast and beyond, helping to inform both research and agricultural practice. Funding will be used to purchase a Combi Steam Oven and an Inframatic 9500 Near Infrared Grain Analyzer, which will bolster the services of the E. E. Cummings Crop Quality Laboratory. This expansion will provide opportunities for researchers to perform critical analyses and for local farmers, millers, bakers, maltsters, brewers, and more to utilize the facilities businesses and products.

Ensuring quality of pure maple syrup through precise temperature measurement recording and analysis with a 20 channel, scanning thermocouple data logger

PI: Mark Isselhardt
Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States and the Proctor Maple Research Center performs critical research and provides services to maple producers. Funding will be used to purchase a Graphtec GL840 Data Logger, which allows for precise temperature measurement and analysis of maple syrup. This equipment measures cooling rate in various package sizes and container types, the relationship between syrup temperature and calcium precipitate formation, and the impact of packaged syrup cooling on syrup color. The machinery will be housed at the Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill, VT.


Gene by environment by management interactions of beans and corn of cultural relevance to the Northeast

PIs: Eric Bishop von Wettberg and Heather Darby

Corn and beans are natural partners as they are commonly grown together, along with squash, as a trio commonly known as the three sisters or milpa. Corn provides an upright structure up which pole beans can climb. Beans provide nitrogen fertility to the other corn and squash. Growing adequate amounts of food while also being sustainable has become a focus on regenerative agricultural practices—something both Darby’s and von Wettberg’s projects will seek to address. Investigating how GEM interactions influence heritage varieties of these crops, including their nutritional profiles, is an important piece of the researchers’ projects and will contribute important knowledge to the field of sustainable agriculture.

UVM Extension Agronomist Heather Darby and Chief Don Stevens talk about their unique partnership with a focus on Indigenous corn. Find out how research is combined with Abenaki cultural history to produce a variety of sustainable corn.


Details coming soon!

Sustainability Metrics

Details coming soon!