Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition (CVFC) members planted 6,735 acres of winter cover crops on farmland in Addison, Chittenden and Rutland counties to help protect water quality, improve soil health and increase next year’s crop yields.

A cover crop is a crop that is planted for the primary purpose of covering the soil to protect fields from erosion and nutrient loss while building soil health when a cash crop is not growing.  These cover crops will hold the soil and reduce nutrient runoff and leaching through the fall, winter and spring, when soil and water quality is most vulnerable.  The 36 CVFC farms that reported growing cover crops this year planted acreage that ranged from eight (8) acres to 800 acres from as far north as Milton to as far south as Danby.  These cover crops were planted many different ways and included a diversity of plant species such as winter cereal rye, annual ryegrass, oats, clover, vetch and even radish and turnip.

Many CVFC farms also participated in ongoing research and demonstration projects in conjunction with the UVM Extension Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team based out of Middlebury; and hosted field days on their farms to help other farmers learn more about the art of cover cropping on different soil types, in different cropping systems and with different equipment.  This fall, CVFC member Foster Brothers Farm were the host site for a UVM Extension Soil Health Workshop and Field Day that welcomed nationally renowned soil health advocate, Ray Archuleta, to share exciting soil health concepts followed by a field day in one of the Foster’s corn fields to show 16 different combinations of cover crops.  The event was attended by more than 80 people, including 40 farmers from around the region.

There are many resources available to farmers interested in planting and learning more about cover crops. UVM Extension, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets all have technical and/or financial resources available to people who want to implement this best management practice on their farms.