Applied Research At Meach Cove Farms

The natural landscape of Vermont is incredible, particularly during the fall as the leaves change. The fading of fall’s brilliant colors into the cold beauty of snowy New England winters, then followed by the renewal of spring is a reminder of philosopher Heraclitus’ proposition that the only constant in life is change. Just as we adapt ourselves to the changing seasons, it is important to prepare ourselves for the long-run effects of a changing climate. As weather patterns and temperatures become increasingly severe, improving human resiliency and promoting adaptation to climate change is paramount.

Given the increasingly urgent need to improve human resiliency, particularly among vulnerable groups in society, the Argosy Foundation has partnered with Meach Cove Farms to promote innovative research. This partnership represents a natural collaboration in line with the guiding values of the Foundation and built upon a tradition of rigorous scientific research and discovery at Meach Cove Farms. One facet of this partnership is support for lands-based research which addresses the climate change problem space and seeks to create new and better adaptation solutions.

Lands-based research– the use of a specific site/locale to engage in research related to environmental management, natural resources, agriculture, technology, or related interests– is often used to address a wide range of questions. On-farm research, the agricultural and resource management programming of land-grant universities, and public-private partnerships all seek to promote innovation by making unique existing resources available to interested researchers.

Meach Cove Farms has been the site of several lands-based research programs and innovative technology experiments for over a decade. Examples of research on site include biomass fuel experiments, native species and pollinator resiliency studies, and an ongoing Kernza wheat varietal adaptation experiment. These varied research projects have been supported by federal and state grants, the University of Vermont, and private contributions.

Meach Cove Farms has several ideal characteristics making it a unique and desirable site for lands-based research on climate resiliency and adaptation. Located in Shelburne, Vermont on a mile of Lake Champlain shoreline, this site has key infrastructure improvements and access to local amenities as well as unique climate and environmental features.

Meach Cove Farms is unique by national and international standards, as Lake Champlain is one of few freshwater lakes of this size and depth in the world. The site also has several natural and improved drainages and ponds. This unique geographic environment provides rare opportunities to promote research including diverse topics such as inland coastal erosion, wave energy, or weather patterns. Additionally, agricultural and technological research in irrigation or water purification and delivery could utilize this site.

Meach Cove Farms is a privately-owned farm which combines agriculture, research, and education. As a farm, it is unique by local standards as most of its farmed acreage is certified organic land. It also has established efforts in renewable energy production. The 1,000 acre farm is slightly smaller than neighboring Shelburne Farms, a 1,400 non-profit educational campus which collaborates with Meach Cove Farms. Both collaborating partner farms grow a variety of sustainable crops.

The agricultural features of Meach Cove Farms include over 280 acres of productive woodland and over 580 acres of organic and conventional high-yield crops including soybeans and wheat. Additionally, The site is home to a large solar farm; the 15 acre solar array generates 2.96 MWdc of power using solar photovoltaic cells. This translates into over 3,500 megawatt hours of energy per year and powers several hundred nearby homes.

Despite the rural characteristics of the site, it is close to a metro area of over 200,000. Meach Cove Farms is only seven miles from the city center of Burlington and only eleven miles from Burlington International Airport (approximately 26 minutes travel time). The site also is near the University of Vermont (UVM), a land-grant university with an established college of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Gund Institute for Environment.

On-farm research, the agricultural and resource management programming of land-grant universities, and public-private partnerships all seek to promote innovation by making unique existing resources available to interested researchers.

The site has a variety of existing structures and infrastructure improvements which could be an attractive feature to researchers spending a great deal of time on site. Existing structures provide space for a variety of activities. There is an airstrip on site which can accommodate various sized drones or automated research devices, or small piloted aircraft. There is lake access through Town Beach or along the property shoreline.

The local humid continental climate offers possible research applications in weather and precipitation patterns as well as climate change measurement. The biome associated with this climate includes mixed temperate forests with variety of broad leaf deciduous trees and a rich variety of plants. There are also myriad species of animals and insects which may be of interest to researchers. Research applications ranging from forest and woodland resource management to alternative uses for woodland products to ecological studies of invasive species, pests, and plant diseases are possible.

This biome also is ideal for various farming activities. Meach Cove Farms is capable of producing a variety of crops well-suited to the local environment; as a certified organic farm it is already doing so. Opportunities for on-farm research applications addressing agricultural practices like sustainable planting and harvesting, species diversification, and technology innovation or improvement are likely avenues of lands-based research practices at this site. Such research would build on a history of agricultural research ongoing at Meach Cove Farms.

For over a decade, lands-based research at Meach Cove Farms has worked to address sustainable practices, resource conservation, and climate resiliency and adaptation. However, this work is just beginning. The Argosy Foundation and Meach Cove Farms are excited to renew their collaborative effort to support resiliency and adaptation research. Through several initiatives planned to begin in 2020, this partnership will seek to engage new research teams and spur innovation in the climate resiliency and adaptation space. Information about these invite-only programs will be made available by the Foundation as they evolve.