EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program helps farmers combine their curiosity with scientific rigour to answer their most challenging on-farm questions.
Since 2016 when EFAO launched the Farmer-Led Research Program, more than 80 different farmers have received funding and support to conduct over 125 trials for their farms, and shared results freely with others at field days, workshops, research roundtables and Symposia.
Winner of the 2019 Excellence in Agriculture Award! Read more >
What is farmer-led research?
What are you curious about on your farm? Do you have an idea for a research, variety or breeding trial and need help designing an experiment? EFAO can help you answer your on-farm questions with financial and technical support. Farmer-led research is a process of inquiry that uses the scientific method to address your on-farm curiosities and challenges in a way that is compatible with your farming and your equipment. It is a flexible and powerful tool that can be integral to improving operations on your farm, including the environmental and economic impacts of your innovations and comparisons.
How do I become a farmer-researcher?
Support is open to all EFAO members.
To apply for support join us at the Research Symposium at the end of the year and/or submit a brief research application. Application open in October of each year, and close the following January.
What is the timeline for research throughout the year?
The image below depicts the typical cycle of farmer-led research with the EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program. Tasks in green denote the farmers’ responsibility; tasks in brown denote EFAO staff responsibility; and tasks pertain to farmer-researchers and EFAO staff.
Where can I learn more about designing a trial?
Please read the frequently asked questions for more information on trial design and on-farm research.
What can I research?
EFAO supports farmer-led research in the following priority areas, as decided by EFAO member-farmers.
Alternative livestock feed
Disease & pest control
Livestock Breed Selection
Seed selection, production & breeding
What is expected of me as a farmer-researcher?
When conducting farmer-led research in cooperation with EFAO, you will work with EFAO staff to design a project that is appropriate for your farm operations and the question you are asking. Farmer-led research is an added responsibility in an already busy season. In order for your project to be successful, it requires thorough planning in the form of a protocol, good data collection skills and follow-through and communication.
Farmer-researchers are expected to:
- Help set project parameters
- Complete research, variety or breeding trial following the written protocol
- Collect and record data as specified
- Turn in data to EFAO by the date specified in the written protocol
- Help interpret data analysis and edit research report and poster
- Keep in contact with EFAO staff with updates and questions
- Take photos of the project during the season
- Complete feedback surveys related to the program
- Invoice EFAO for farmer-fee and approved research expenses by deadline
- Provide research mentoring, including reviewing related protocols and phone consultation with fellow farmer-researchers on related projects (if applicable)
- Host an EFAO-organized field day related to the farmer-led research project (if applicable)
- Attend and present at the Research Symposium that is held in conjunction with the annual EFAO Conference that takes place end of November/early December (if possible)
Who determines the projects that are supported?
EFAO’s Research Advisory Committee determines the projects that are funded. The Committee is made up of EFAO member-farmers and academic partners.
If you want to conduct a project that is not selected for funding, staff can still help with the design process.
What support will I receive from EFAO as a farmer-researcher?
EFAO feels strongly about providing financial support for farmers who participate in the Farmer-Led Research Program. We work to maximize the farmer-stipend and reimbursed research expenses, depending on the funding available.
Currently, financial support is as follows:
- EFAO members receive a stipend per farm per project depending on the scope of the project. This includes $1000 per replicated trial; $500 per demonstration and screening trials; and $100/variety for variety trials.
- Reimbursement for qualified seed and soil/plant analysis, when applicable
- Complimentary ticket to farmer-led research training events and the Research Symposium
- Reimbursement for 1 night stay at hotel for the Symposium (pending funding)
EFAO staff will help throughout the entire project, from design to the final report. Each project is unique, but typical responsibilities for staff include:
- Help to design project and write a detailed protocol and data collection sheets
- Analyze, summarize and publish results in the form of a research report and/or poster
- Monitor progress of the project and provide support when needed
- Help collect data if needed
- Provide stipend and reimbursement for approved expenses for each project that is successfully completed
- Provide training opportunities related to farmer-led research
- Deliver or mail a Farmer-Researcher farm gate sign
What other resources are there for farmer-led research?
- EFAO’s Research FAQ | Frequently asked questions >
- EFAO’s Research Library | Research Library >
- BC Forage Council | A Guide to On-Farm Demonstration Research >
- NE Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education | A Practical Guide to On-Farm Pasture Research >
- Organic Seed Alliance | Growers Guide to On-Farm Variety Trials >
- Organic Seed Alliance | Introduction to On-Farm Organic Plant Breeding >
- Organic Seed Alliance | Participatory Plant Breeding Toolkit >
- Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) | Breeding Organic Vegetables: A Step by Step Guide for Growers > by Rowen White and Bryan Connolly