Vermont Land Trust awarded $2M to advance innovation in agriculture

steer in tall grass

Federal delegation lauds collaborative effort that will help 25 conserved farms

October 1, Montpelier, VT — A $2 million grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been awarded to the Vermont Land Trust to help farmers implement practices that enhance the health of their soils. The Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) Program and the On-Farm Trials of NRCS stimulate the adoption and evolution of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with farmers.

The Vermont Land Trust, Biological Capital, and the University of Vermont Extension, will work with approximately 25 conserved farms to create, implement, and evaluate practices that enhance the health of soil, including its ability to store carbon. This is the only Vermont-based project to receive CIG funding.

“Time and again, Vermont has proven itself to be a leader in innovation, particularly in the agricultural sector where our commitment to farmland protection, local food systems, and environmental stewardship sets us apart,” said Nick Richardson, President & CEO of the Vermont Land Trust. “This grant helps us pilot new approaches to building soil health that are good for the farmer and good for our farmland.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said:  “Vermonters have long known that stewardship and conservation of our farmland is a public good, and our farmers have led the way in finding innovative ways to improve the sustainability of their operations and our communities’ resilience to climate change. As a lead negotiator of the 2018 Farm Bill, I was pleased to support the creation of these new On-Farm Trials, because putting the tools and resources into the farmers’ hands is the best way to push these important practices forward. I applaud the Vermont Land Trust and its partners for seizing this forward-thinking opportunity.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said: “I commend the Vermont Land Trust for investing in research to grow healthy soil. Farmers are at the forefront of climate change and deal with more extreme weather, like floods and droughts, every day. We need research like this to improve farmers’ livelihoods and the quality of soil for generations to come. These on-farm trials will enable more farmers to adopt the practices needed to save our soils and build a more resilient agricultural system.”

Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said: “Farming is an integral part of Vermont’s identity and economy, and this grant will advance cutting-edge conservation techniques on our farms. This grant is a win-win for farms and the environment. I applaud the work of the Vermont Land Trust and their continued efforts to keep land accessible for our communities and farmers.”

The NRCS awarded over $25 million in grants to support 14 projects across the U.S.

“On-Farm Trials help producers improve the health of their operations while at the same time helping NRCS build data to show the benefit of innovative conservation systems and practices applied on the land,” said VT NRCS State Conservationist Vicky Drew.

The Vermont Land Trust will provide project oversight, work directly with farmers, and manage the technical service providers. Biological Capital and UVM will lead the data collection and analysis to test the efficacy of different approaches, including those that minimize soil disturbance while maximizing soil cover and biodiversity. Outcomes will be evaluated against five control sites and used to create a predictive model, the results of which will be available in 2025.