Whole Farm Water

In collaboration with UVM Extension and the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, I am currently working on a multi-stage project is designed to increase water use efficiency in commercial vegetable operations in the Northeastern United States. There are many unknowns about how and why farmers currently use water, and how those practices may change in an era of shifting precipitation patterns and changing regulatory landscapes. My work in this area falls into the following categories: (1) a survey of farmers to better understand current water management strategies; (2) on-farm data collection using water meters (to measure water use), soil moisture probes (to measure demand), and regionally available climate data (to measure demand); and (c) a review of water withdrawal regulations within the six New England states, specifically as they apply to commercial agriculture. Future work will include field trials to test the effects of different “irrigation cues” used by commercial farmers on agroecological outcomes (including yield, soil nutrient availability, etc.).

Climate Change Adaptation for Farmers

As a USDA Climate Hub Research Fellow, my current work focuses on adaptation to climate change at the farm scale, reflecting the complex nature of environmental and social change. I serve with the Northeast Climate Hub, where I focus on developing outreach and applied, mixed method research that serves the needs of land managers and agricultural advisers. With my collaborators, I recently completed two national surveys of USDA service center staff, specifically staff from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The project looks at agency staff perceptions of climate change, and their professional use of weather and climate information. Simultaneously, I am also collaborating with partners at the University of Vermont and University of Massachusetts Amherst to interview farmers in VT and MA. Interview topics involved perceptions of climate risk in relationship to farm management choices, and the time horizons used by farmers for planning farm risk management activities. 

Through my PhD program at the University of Vermont, I worked with Vermont Agricultural Resilience in a Changing Climate Initiative (VAR), a transdisciplinary team of researchers and community members to explore what farmers can do to limit the risks they face because of climate change. I used qualitative methodology adapted from psychological and nursing disciplines to develop the Resilient Farmer Typology. Targeted outreach and education based on this typology will ultimately decrease programming costs and increase the impact of our collective efforts to protect land managers and communities from climate related risk. Find out more about VAR and the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative on their website.

Farmers and Community Food Security

Hunger is an issue of growing concern nationwide, and farmers can play a critical role in helping individuals and families gain access to healthy, fresh, locally produced food. By better understanding how and why farmers work to address hunger in communities, Extension professionals can better support them to achieve the dual goals of food security and farm viability. You can read more in this article in the Journal of Extension.

Insect Netting for Management of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) on Organic Farms

Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura), or spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is a relatively new invasive pest that will likely have severe economic impact on berry growers in the northeastern United States. In 2014, we conducted trials on two berry farms in northeastern Vermont. The study found that exclusion netting can be used in combination with good sanitation practices to control SWD in commercial raspberry production. The project also found that there is an unequal sex distribution of SWD inside netted plantings, with a higher concentration of female SWD found inside exclusion nets.  You can read more in our final report.