From the Field Profiles

Short profiles of SARE-funded research and education projects in action.

Ohio Farmer Develops Mobile Hops Dryer

In a state that boasts 300 craft breweries, David Volkman is one of many craft beer enthusiasts in Ohio. But Volkman, with 12 acres of land in Warren County, is not only supporting Ohio’s craft brewing industry through consumption; he’s also contributing to its production. In 2012, he and his wife, Nina, started transitioning some […]

The American Kestrel: an IPM Friend for Michigan’s Fruit Growers

Cherry producers across the region are all too familiar with starlings, finches, voles, pocket gophers, and other animals that can wreak havoc on a cherry orchard by feeding on ripening fruit and developing roots or shoots. These little pests can be a big problem for Michigan’s cherry growers, who grow 75 percent of all tart cherries and 20 percent of sweet cherries in […]

Youth Hit the Road to Learn about Sustainable Livestock Production in Wisconsin

Jessie Oberlin is no stranger to the 4-H’ers in Jackson County, Wisconsin. Whether she’s providing coaching for the 4-H Livestock Judging Contest, setting up livestock production tours, or prepping youth for the 4-H Quiz Bowl, Oberlin has spent most of her adult life introducing rural young people to new livestock opportunities in a county known for cranberry and strawberry production. Oberlin grew up showing […]

Latino Producers Explore Sustainable Practices in Missouri

When Eleazar Gonzalez was a child, raising crops and making cheese on his family’s small farm in Mexico, he often pondered the career he would pursue. At the age of fifteen, he received a scholarship that allowed him to study high school agriculture and eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree in agronomy. This pivotal time allowed Gonzalez to start working with programs that […]

Does Open-Pollinated Corn Have a Place on Today’s Organic Farm?

On 205 acres near the picturesque bluffs of the On 205 acres near the picturesque bluffs of the Mississippi River, Stanley Smith raises beef cows and grows organic corn in southeastern Minnesota. He grew up on this small farm in the rolling hills of Winona County, and worked in partnership with his dad until his dad retired. Smith and his wife, Vickie, […]

Iowa Farmers Seek Sustainability with Cover Crops and No-Till

In 2002, a $6,500 SARE grant funded an idea for a new tool at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. The tool was a roller-crimper, a steel drum with blades that was mounted to a tractor and used to roll down cover crops. The idea was that the mat of dead cover crops would act as mulch, which researchers hoped no-till farmers […]

New Research Tackles Concerns About Grazing Corn Residue

Since the 1850’s, several states in the North Central region have dominated corn production nationally, earning the nickname “The Corn Belt.” It should come as no surprise, then, that corn residue is abundant in the region. Rick Rasby, Associate Dean of Extension, professor, and Beef Specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) says corn residue can […]

Overwintering Bees for Increased Apiary Sustainability

Our $20-billion-a-year crop industry relies on insect pollination, but diseases, pests, and colony collapse disorder are knocking out 30 percent of beekeepers’ colonies every growing season. There are as many as 125,000 beekeepers in the country. And while 2.77 million honey-producing colonies generated 161.8 million pounds of raw honey in 2016, the annual value of […]

Peer-to-Peer Food Safety Education Fruitful for Hmong-American Farmers in Minnesota

When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2015, it included new provisions that regulate food safety requirements for some fruit and vegetable farms. This new federal food safety legislation, along with market-based audit programs like Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), can seem daunting to small-scale or diversified farmers. As a statewide Extension Educator for farm food safety at the University of […]

North Coast Lamb Co-op: Using Carcass Scanning for Producer Production Criteria

1865 was a historic year in American history. Abraham Lincoln was president, the Civil War was coming to a close, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, and the National Wool Growers Association was formed. This first-ever national livestock association in the U.S. laid the groundwork for the organization we know today as the American Sheep Industry […]

Comparing Apples to Apples: Participatory Research for Artisanal Cider Producers

Michelle Miller, the Associate Director of University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) has been using participatory research to better understand the growing hard cider industry. “Over the past 5 years, hard cider has been the fastest growing craft beverage in the U.S.,” said Miller. “With increasing prices for cider apples, less focus on the […]

Apples for Artisanal Cider: Understanding the Characteristics of Single Varietals

Hard cider is a beverage that is rooted in history, dating back to 55 BC when the Romans discovered it in England. Today, it is emerging as a potentially fruitful business opportunity for modern and future producers. Two of the producers who have contributed to that growth are Wisconsinites Marie and Matt Raboin, who made their […]

The Fruit and Nut Compass: Developing a Tool and Guiding Principles for Diversified Farms

As interest in diversified perennial production grows, farmers across the region have been searching for sustainable ways to battle pests, tap into lucrative markets, and increase yields as they work to develop biodiverse agricultural ecosystems. Building on the concept of their Veggie Compass project, and the desire to develop whole farm profit management tools and […]

Sustainable Pest Management Approaches for Raspberry Growers

Spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) (Drosophila suzukii) is a gnat-sized fly that will damage ripe or ripening fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. Heather Leach, a Michigan State University graduate student in Rufus Isaacs’ Berry Crops Entomology lab says that in 2014, SWD caused estimated economic losses of $159 million in U.S. raspberry production (Burrack […]

Maximizing Pollinator Protection and Natural Pest Suppression in Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Crops

Eric Middleton knows that beneficial insects can provide ecosystem services to agriculture, ranging from pollination to pest suppression. As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, Middleton received a $12,000 NCR-SARE Graduate Student grant to compare how floral plantings in the margins of conventionally managed potato fields affect pollinator and predator abundance and richness, as […]

Evaluating On-Farm Value-Added Production in Utilizing Unmarketable Produce to Reduce Waste While Helping Small Farms Engage in Agritourism and Bec…

On a three-acre urban farm in northeast Grand Rapids, Michigan, Lance Kraai is growing produce and jobs. In 2012, Kraai helped start New City Neighbors urban farm to expand the non-profit’s already successful youth employment work. Beyond growing and selling produce to their 200 member CSA, Kraai has explored profitable value-added opportunities available for the […]

Resources that Help Sustainable-Organic Vegetable Growers Select, Use, and Evaluate Microbecontaining Crop Stimulants (MCCSs) More Effectively

The decomposition of organic matter relies on bacteria and fungi that are commonly referred to as soil microbes. Matthew Kleinhenz, The Ohio State University professor and extension specialist, says many microbes are included as leading components of microbecontaining crop stimulants (MCCSs) advertised to enhance soil and crop health, accelerate soil nutrient cycling, and improve crop […]

Development of a Cooperative Food Distribution Model for Small Farms

Monica Bongue owns Muddy Fork Farm in Wooster Ohio, a certified organic farm for over 15 years, where she produces vegetables, chickens, ducks, sheep, and goats. She wanted to expand her marketing which consisted of direct sales through farmers’ markets and a small, on-farm CSA. Along with a number of other small, local producers, Bongue […]