Keyline Plowing on a Northwestern Vermont Research Farm Site

We are working with farmers and other researchers to understand how different practices on northeastern dairy farms can help build resilience to weather extremes in a changing climate, and also help improve the quality of the soil and water around them.

The project goal is to develop and evaluate alternative management systems (including aeration, cover crops, no-till, and manure injection) for dominant agricultural land uses (dairy farms, in particular) in the Northeast that enhance ecosystem services and improve climate change resilience.

Research Project Scope and Details

image description: researcher is in the grass wearing light clothing and a hat, taking notes

Through this project we will:

  • Implement alternative agricultural management systems on operating farms in the Northeast;
  • Quantify carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions, sediment and nutrient loss, and hydrologic characteristics associated with conventional and alternative management systems;
  • Evaluate socio-economic factors related to alternative system implementation;
  • Estimate ecosystem services of water purification, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation on a broader scale.

This project will utilize edge-of-field flow monitoring stations, soil analysis, socio-economic metrics, and greenhouse gas measurements on cooperating dairy farms in two watersheds. Data will be collected on two field-scale paired watersheds. Comparisons will be made across watershed pairs, as well as four different management systems. We expect that results will be transferable to similar production systems across and outside of the region and will be integrated into outreach/Extension programming to educate and influence change among agricultural stakeholders, service providers, and policy makers.

Ecosystem Services: Listening to Farmers Voices

Grazing Cows

As Vermont (like states and regions across the country and around the world) confronts both the economic viability and environmental impact of farming, the topic of "payment for ecosystem services" has become more and more common.  Plant & Soil Sciences doctoral researcher Alissa White is the lead on this part of the project.  The goal is to bring farmers’ voices into the research on ways that farmland can be managed for ecosystem services, and also to understand what farmers are thinking about when they make choices for how they go about their work.  This is important information for policy-makers who are considering paying farmers for ecosystem services, and want to make sure new policies will work for the people most affected. 

In fall 2019, we convened and documented a series of conversations with farmers to understand their thoughts and concerns.  We have compiled the results of those into a short report for the legislature.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator Joshua Faulkner., Farming & Climate Change Coordinator, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture 802-656-3495,
  • Co-Principal Investigators:
    Carol Adair
    , Assistant Professor of Climate Change and Adaptation, UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, 802-656-2907,
  • David Conner, Associate Professor, UVM Community Development & Applied Economics, 802-656-1965,
  • Stephanie E. Hurley, Assistant Professor, UVM Dept. of Plant & Soil Sciences, 802-656-9501,
  • Researcher:
  • Alissa White, Researcher, Agroecology & Livelihoods Collaborative,


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

Woodcut of a farm with people gathering produce and cows grazing


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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-67020-23180