Farmers, no matter what language they speak or what their prior experience has been, have the potential and desire to adopt new ways of becoming better land stewards. Ben Waterman has seen this first-hand as UVM Extension’s Beginning Farmer, Land Access and New American Farmer Program Coordinator.  

During fall 2018, in partnership with the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, Waterman taught six New American farmer business owners in the Burlington area how to add cover crops to their fields. With Waterman’s technical assistance, Janine Ndagijimana’s African Eggplant Farm and the Burundian Farmers Group quickly adopted the practice on two acres (a large portion of which exists in environmentally sensitive floodplain).

This acreage represents close to a 100% increase in cover cropped land, bringing their ratio of production land to cover cropped land to an impressive 1:1. Setting aside this much land for cover cropping demonstrates an investment in and commitment to the soil they farm. It’s especially notable due to the challenges New American farmers face gaining long-term access to fertile and productive land. A year later, the two businesses have maintained that 1:1 ratio and continue to balance their short-term economic needs with longer term goals of protecting environmental and soil health.

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Benjamin D. Waterman