UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center: A Year in Review

people standing around a bed of lettuce in a green house

The Horticulture Research and Education Center (HREC) recently presented a year-end review highlighting the significant research, teaching and outreach activities that took place at the farm in 2022. The 97-acre property located just a few miles from campus in South Burlington serves as the primary field laboratory site for agronomic and horticultural crop research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is the home of the Catamount Educational Farm, which provides a platform for research and education, serves as a model for sustainable fruit and vegetable production, and generates food for the local community.

Each year, the Farmer Training Program brings aspiring farmers and food systems advocates from around the country to Catamount Farm for an immersive six-month program in sustainable farming. In 2022, 18 students participated in the program representing nine different U.S. states. These students, with support from UVM undergraduate students enrolled in PSS 209: Diversified Farm Operations, gain experience in organic crop production, while also building entrepreneurial farm management skills. Food grown at Catamount Farm is sold through a 75-participant CSA, the Old North End Farmers Market, Catamount Farms Farm Stand and served in the UVM Dining Halls.

Over the last few years, Catamount Farm has expanded partnerships in the local community and strengthened its commitment to combating food insecurity. During the 2022 growing season, Catamount Farm distributed food through several food assistance programs including Feeding Chittenden, Abenaki Helping Abenaki, The Peoples Farmstand, Intervale Gleaning, Food Not Cops, and UVM’s on-campus food pantry, Rally Cats Cupboard. Several projects are also underway at Catamount Farm to help community members cultivate heritage crops and culturally significant foods. This past year, Catamount Farm partnered with UVM Extension Huertas, New Farms for New Americans, the Abenaki-led Seeds of Renewal Project and UVM Hillel.

In addition to the Farmer Training Program and PSS 209, several UVM classes take place at the farm throughout the year, as well as many community events put on by the Friends of the Horticulture Farm open to the general public. Catamount Farm is also a key partner in the Agroecology Extension (AX) Summer Research Fellowship, a fully paid, 10-week research and outreach experience open to students at UVM, and across the U.S. Now entering its third year, the program is uniquely tailored for students looking to deepen their knowledge of sustainable agricultural approaches, develop transdisciplinary research and outreach skills, and engage with farmers and growers around Vermont. Applications for both the 2023 Farmer Training Program and AX Fellowship are currently open.

Many UVM researchers are active at HREC year-round working to generate new knowledge to support and inform Vermont growers and producers. UVM’s Fruit Program led by HREC Director Terence Bradshaw recently published interim results from a 10-year trial looking at the organic management of apple rootstocks. Bethany Pelletier, M.S. student studying viticulture, is working with Bradshaw to compare different varieties of cold hardy grape varieties and which may be better suited for low-input natural winemaking in the region. UVM’s Entomology Research Laboratory is studying vertical agrivoltaics, the integration of vertical solar arrays into agricultural fields at HREC, which has not been done before in the U.S. Other research teams are exploring topics including the disease resistance of wild hops, strategies to control various pests of vegetable crops, the use of soil media to manage pollutants from stormwater, the potential for saffron in Vermont, dual use cover crops and many more.

HREC also recently welcomed two new staff members, Operations Coordinator Brian Vaughan and Catamount Farm Production Manager tanam varas, and is busy preparing for the 2023 growing season ahead. HREC staff welcome past, present and new users to join them at the farm. Contact Rachel Stievater with questions or ideas for partnership opportunities.

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