Here is the second newsletter we are sending in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and above all else we hope this finds you and yours as well as can be.
Much has shifted in where we find ourselves physically, and ways we can be of service - but we very much want to let you know that we are here and doing all we can to support Vermont's farms and communities. This is an especially clear moment in which to see just how much it means to have a resilient farm and food system that supports all of us, wherever and whoever we may be. We continue to resolutely (and remotely) work towards this. Research projects are underway, and the growing season is right upon us.
With that in mind, here are just a few early season tips and updates, and invitations to join us for virtual learning and for individual help if you need it. Please stay in touch and do let us know how we can serve you.
When to start grazing?
"The question often is 'At what (grass) height can I start grazing so that I won't set those roots back?'" Check out these great short videos with an illustration of the answer.
So tempting but - wait, wait, wait – before you put livestock out on pasture - take a look at your plants. Is there enough for a grazing animal, and at least 3” to 4” residual for regrowth? If not, take a deep breath and tell the animals it’s stored feed for a bit longer. Putting them out too soon in spring, can result in plants bitten down hard and close to the ground. Without any leaf area to photosynthesize, those plants will draw on root reserves to regenerate growth, and it will set them back for slower regrowth. In addition, soft wet ground will be torn up and compacted. Better to wait! (And for more illustration why, here's a great piece by Victor Shelton published in a recent On Pasture.)
Soil Sampling in Spring
Fall soil sampling after harvest is preferable for providing baseline plant available nutrients for the following season, but spring soil sampling can be done. If you choose spring soil sampling, be sure to take samples prior to field work and applying fertilizers. If you weren’t able to get fall soil samples, early spring sampling can still be helpful. At this time, UVM’s soil lab remains open for accepting your samples. Please follow this link for sample submission forms. Also see Laura's explanation of how to do a good soil sample on your own in this video from the 2020 Vermont Grazing & Livestock Conference. Any questions? Let Laura know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Continuing Farm to School Research
Just as our team of graduate students was starting to conduct interviews with school district leaders to understand how they're implementing Farm to School, our efforts had to come to a halt. Our goal is to identify opportunities for growth in a school district context. Even though further conversations are on hold, the information we glean from the current and future interviews will help address farm viability, school nutrition, the social connections within agricultural communities and the multiple other benefits of Vermont's Farm to Farm to School efforts.
An Addison County CEAP program monitoring station, up and running
Conservation Effects Assessment Program Launching in Addison County
If you work or play in Addison County, you may notice stream gage stations positioned on the East and West Branches of Dead Creek as well as Little Otter Creek. These sites are being used to study how different types of agricultural conservation practices effect water quality on the watershed scale. This is a 3 to 4-year project that is part of CEAP (Conservation Effects Assessment Project), a national assessment started by the USDA in 2003. UVM Extension's Center for Sustainable Agriculture is the lead investigator for these local sites. We’re not spying, just learning! If you have any questions regarding the project let us know: Joshua Faulkner, Joshua.Faulkner@uvm.edu or Matt Kelting, Matthew.Kelting@uvm.edu.