A research collaboration between farmers, scientists, and conservationists

Vermont farmers have an essential role to play in combating climate change. Some farming practices can trap carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere, while supporting healthier soils, cleaner water, and wildlife habitat.

Farming models where livestock feed on grass—whether for dairy or meat—can offer unique opportunities. However, sustaining profitability while making significant changes in farm management can be a challenge.

Which practices are worth the investment? And how long do they take to pay off?

Managing pasture for healthy farms and healthy soils

To help answer these questions and more, we have partnered with Bio-Logical Capital, the University of Vermont, and the University of Vermont Extension on a study funded by the Conservation Innovation Grant program of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  

A diverse cohort of Vermont farms is enrolled in this five-year research project. Each farm is implementing specific pasture management farming practices with the goal of improving soil health, increasing productivity, and building resilience into their business. Enrolled farms receive direct payments to support the cost of inputs and new infrastructure, and to compensate for on-farm data collection. The farms also receive technical assistance from a team of skilled agronomists and grazing specialists. 

The core practice is Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG)—where animals are allowed to graze only a small portion of the pasture while other areas are allowed to recover. Farmers are also implementing nutrient management and supplemental seeding with the goal of improving their pastures. 

We’ve designed the study to focus on fields where Vermont farmers are implementing intensive rotational grazing for the first time. This allows us to observe changes in the soil and the plants, while tracking input costs, labor, and other impacts to farm management. 

Data collected during the project will provide a rigorous, state-wide evaluation of these practices and their ecological, social, and financial outcomes.  

On-farm data collection with the new practices began in 2022 and will continue through the 2025 growing season.