Row Covers & Spray Irrigation in Burlington's Intervale

Climate change impacts of increased and more variable precipitation and increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as floods or prolonged dry periods, are changing the way farmers farm in the Northeast.

Furthermore, projections for increased variability and further climatic changes will potentially further expose farmers and their businesses to risk. A recent Vermont survey of farmers showed that 56% of farmers believe climate change will negatively impact their farms and 31% are not sure (Agroecology, Ecosystems and Sustainability by Schattman and Conner 2015 - PDF). As farmers' livelihoods depend directly on the weather, it's not surprising that a number of farmers have started to adapt their practices to this new normal.

As part of the USDA Climate Hub's efforts to build capacity and deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers in the region, staff from the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture have developed a series of economic case studies detailing the benefits and costs of implementing adaptation practices on northeastern farms.

Benefits of Irrigation: Intervale Community Farm

Intervale Community Farm Sign

The Intervale Community Farm (ICF), established in 1990 and located along the Winooski River in Burlington, is one of Vermont's oldest and largest community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms. Andy Jones has been manager of this certified organic farm since 1993, growing 25 acres of a wide variety of vegetables including cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, melons, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes.

Read more about the farm's operations and this report.

The farm has developed strong relationships with its 600 member-customers and Andy has built a reputation as a leading organic farm practitioner in the Northeast. As Andy explains, "On a 100-year floodplain, ICF soils have long been recognized as productive farmland, albeit subject to flooding. The irony is that much of the floodplain which ICF farms is composed of sandy soils, which drain well but need to be irrigated during dry periods." Over the past several decades, the impacts of climate change in the Northeast have meant an increase in extreme weather events including heavy downpours and extended dry hot periods throughout the growing season.

Download methods, budget, analysis and key findings

PDF iconDetails of methods, partial budget, and sensitivity analysis with tables and figures. (PDF)

PDF iconKey findings of the project. (PDF)

 

Economics of Gully Erosion and Stabilization: Last Resort Farm

gully on the farm

Located at the northeast corner of Addison County Vermont, the Doyle-Burrs operate a 272 acre diversified family farm. They purchased what had previously been a dairy farm for over 140 years in 1986.  The Doyle-Burrs started the conversion to organic certification by selling the dairy herd and moving to hay and produce operations in 1993.

The farm operates a pick-your-own berries operation, an on-site farmstand and a CSA program. They also sell their produce at local farmers markets and wholesale to schools, restaurants, and food stores in Burlington, Williston, Winooski and Bristol, Vermont.

Over the past 15 years, Last Resort Farm (LRF) has experienced an increase in extreme weather with heavy precipitation.  Farm co-owner Eugenie says, “Storms have been worse, causing soil erosion. In June 2015, we had 20 inches of rain as measured by our rain gauges on the farm and that was also confirmed by the Addison weather station.”

PDF iconRead the project case study (PDF file download).

Microsoft Office document iconRead more about project details and the economic analysis (MS Word file download).

 

Milkweed as an Alternative Crop for Climate Adaptation

pink milkweed flowers with monarch

Milkweed is the sole food source for the beloved monarch butterfly, but it has long been considered undesirable for most farmers.

Herbicide use and increased cultivation of genetically modified crops have caused a severe decline in milkweed and monarch butterfly populations.   But recent innovative uses for milkweed fiber have piqued the interest of some innovative farmers in the Northeast.

Milkweed production provides ecological benefits including semi-permanent soil cover and monarch butterfly, pollinator and other wildlife habitat.   Additionally, milkweed can provide a specialty fiber crop that enables farmers to meet a new market demand for natural fibers while adapting to climate change and having less environmental impact.

With these benefits, it makes sense that interest is growing.  UVM Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program has been investigating the feasibility of producing milkweed as a commercial crop with farmers in Vermont.  The Center is now conducting an economic case study as part of our climate adaptation case study series with NRCS and the NE Climate Hub.

 

Interested in knowing more about the Center's work or do you have a question we haven't answered here?  Contact us via email or  802-656-5459 and we'll do our best to help.

Woodcut of a farm with people gathering produce and cows grazing

Contact

  • Help with a plan for grazing your livestock:  Kimberly Hagen at  802-656-3834 or.kimberly.hagen@uvm.edu
  • General inquiries and potential partnerships: Jenn Colby at 802-535-7606 or jcolby@uvm.edu
  • Vermont Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program Education Coordinator Mary Ellen Franklin at MaryEllen.Franklin@uvm.edu
  • Pasture walks and other upcoming events: Colene Reed at colene.reed@uvm.edu
  • Help with your Connecticut River watershed farm, including nutrient management and other water quality-related issues: Laura Johnson at laura.o.johnson@uvm.edu
  • Research questions or ideas: Juan Alvez at 802-656-6116 or juan.alvez@uvm.edu
  • Include pasture-related events in online or email Pasture Calendars: Cheryl Herrick at cheryl.herrick@uvm.edu

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