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 70 different farmers have received funding and support to conduct over 100 trials for their farms, and shared results freely with others at field days, workshops, research roundtables and Symposia.
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Learn about research from 2020 from research reports, audio summaries and videos. Explore findings from 2020 >
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 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. The application deadline is in January of each year and applications re-open in the fall.
What is the timeline for research throughout the year?
Please read about the timeline and rhythm of the farmer-led research season.
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. The 2021 Research Advisory Committee members are:
Eric Barnhorst, Jessica Gale, Jason Hayes, Matt Jones, Ken Laing, Annie Richard, Steven Wolgram and Dr. Ralph Martin, along with EFAO staff Sarah Hargreaves and Rebecca Ivanoff.
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 $500 stipend per farm per project and $250 per farm per variety trial
- Reimbursement up to $1000 for pre-approved research expenses
- 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 | On-Farm Demonstration and Research Guide >
- 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 >
- Rowen White and Bryan Connolly | Breeding Organic Vegetables: A Step-by-step Guide For Growers >