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July 2020

Final Reminder—Preproposals due July 23

Northeast SARE is continuing to accept preproposals for the Research and Education, Research for Novel Approaches in Sustainable Agriculture, and Professional Development Grant Programs. Preproposals are due online by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 23, 2020. Applicants selected to submit full proposals will be contacted in late August with full proposals due by Oct. 20. Projects awards will be made in late February 2021. Visit our website for more information.
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Welcome New Staff!

Please help us welcome two new staff to Northeast SARE. Kali McPeters joins us as a Grant Coordinator and Lacey Ure is our new Financial Manager. 
Kali McPeters is managing the Graduate Student Research and Research for Novel Approaches Grant Programs, starting with our upcoming grant awards and 2021 Calls. Kali is completing her Master’s degree at the University of Vermont (UVM) where she also holds a B.S. in Community and International Development. Prior to joining Northeast SARE, Kali worked at the Intervale Center (VT), Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program and American Farmland Trust where she evaluated New York’s Farm to School Purchasing Incentive. Kali said, “These experiences have confirmed for me the importance of agricultural research and its significant role in supporting farm viability and keeping working lands in production.”
Lacey Ure is Northeast SARE’s new Financial Manager, following the departure of Lee Hendrickson who, after working for SARE for 20 years, retired in June. Lacey has a degree in General Business from Champlain College. She has worked at UVM since 2011, where she was the Business Manager for the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences. Lacey has also served as a representative of the UVM Staff Council since 2016; she is currently a member of the Executive Staff Council and serves as Chair of the Council’s Personal and Professional Development Committee. In addition, Lacey received the Award for Excellence in Staff Support from the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2018. 

Who’s Who at Northeast SARE

(Personnel listed in alphabetical order)
Katie Campbell-Nelson, Professional Development Program Coordinator
Nevin Dawson, Professional Development Program Associate Coordinator
Vern Grubinger, Director
Deb Heleba, Communications Specialist
Candice Huber, Grant Coordinator—Farmer and Partnership Grants
Kali McPeters, Grant Coordinator—Graduate Student Research and Research for Novel Approaches Grants
Heather Omand, Associate Director, Coordinator—Research and Education Grants
Jennifer Pelkey, Office Manager
Lacey Ure, Financial Manager

Research and Education Project Evaluates Scrubber Systems in Anaerobic Digesters on Dairy Farms

Abhinav Choudhury describes the Research and Education project that he worked on, led by his advisor, Stephanie Lansing of the University of Maryland--College Park. Choundhury graduated with a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from UMD-CP and is now an environmental research engineer with The Conservation Fund's Freshwater Institute.
Energy costs can be a limiting factor in the profitability of Northeastern farms. Anaerobic digesters can present an exciting opportunity to produce energy on-farm, especially dairies, where “manure digesters” turn livestock waste into biogas used for heat and energy production. However, digesters are a significant investment and produce biogas that contains hydrogen sulfide that can have a costly, corrosive effect on equipment.

Dr. Stephanie Lansing of the University of Maryland—College Park conducted a Northeast SARE Research and Education project to evaluate the use of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) scrubber systems to remove H2S from biogas. The project looked at their potential to reduce costs and increase efficiencies for dairy-derived biogas production. H2S scrubbers themselves can have high capital and operating costs with varying results. The project team worked with four farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York to assess biogas scrubbing efficiency and anaerobic digester maintenance costs for three different H2S scrubbing systems: micro-aeration, an iron oxide scrubber, and a biological scrubber. 

The team found that the biological scrubber offered the most consistent performance but it also required the most labor time to maintain and monitor. Time and financial investment in the micro-aeration and iron oxide scrubbers were lower, but their results were more inconsistent. The team concluded that, while H2S scrubbers are important to the viability of anaerobic digestion produce biogas, more research in this area is needed before making farmer recommendations.

Over the course of the project, more than 200 farmers and 50 service providers learned about H2S scrubber systems. The project team offered direct consultations to 45 farmers, resulting in the savings of $20,000 for one farmer alone who increased their skills around proper maintenance for their micro-aeration scrubber system. The project team also held six field days, created eleven fact sheets, five case studies, and published two journal articles. Farmers who participated in the study reported better understanding of the different scrubber systems, the importance of proper maintenance, and the usefulness of regular biogas monitoring. 

Professional Development Project Creates How-to Guide for On-Farm Decision-Making

The only constant in farming is change. Whether it’s new challenges caused by pests, pathogens or weather, or new opportunities brought about by innovations or changes in the market, every change generates consequences that farmers must react to. Without effective decision-making tools and appropriate information, a farmer’s reactions may not be optimal for the well-being of both their business and their quality of life.

Laurie Drinkwater and Tomasz Falkowski of Cornell University set out to equip farmers with tools to generate the information they need to take make decisions in the face of change. With funding from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program, the project team worked with farmers to craft a 96-page how-to manual, “Problem Solving and Innovation on the Farm”.

The project’s premise was that innovative and experienced farmers regularly use informal research methodology to produce knowledge in a way that’s compatible with day-to-day farming activities. The project team assembled a panel of these farmers, identified by their peers, who then created a problem-solving framework appropriate for farmers of all experience levels.

The manual’s framework leads farmers through seven steps with a holistic approach that emphasizes the importance of identifying the farm’s vision and analyzing the existing farm systems before taking any new actions. These steps help craft decisions that lead to both increased profitability and a happier lifestyle. The publication’s graphics help illustrate key concepts and processes. And 11 farm case studies share farmers’ experiences using the problem-solving framework to make significant changes to their operations. 

Farmers were involved in this project as partners in developing the manual as well as workshop participants and project reviewers. They shared that they would change their approach to on-farm problem solving and innovation as a result of this work. They learned how to match a certain problem with the experimental methods most compatible with a working farm. They also recognized the importance of using controls and replication to account for different sources of temporal or spatial variability not previously considered in annual trials. 

Looking Ahead...

The growing season is in full swing but we wanted to give you a heads up that proposals for the 2021 Farmer Grant Program will be due on November 17, 2020. While you're on the tractor, in the fields or at the market, you may find, in the words of John W. Gardner, "What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems." Northeast SARE's Farmer Grant Program provides research funds directly to farmers to discover breathtaking opportunities. Stay tuned for more information later this summer.
Northeast SARE offers competitive grants and sustainable agriculture education in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Our programs are offered to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status. SARE is funded by USDA NIFA. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Northeast SARE

140 Kennedy Drive, Suite 202
South Burlington, Vermont 05403
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