Program Details

What is farmer-led on-farm research?

It is research for your farm, with financial, logistical and scientific support from EFAO.

On-farm research uses the scientific method 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.

Why conduct on-farm research?

  • Evaluate potential solutions, different practices or varieties
  • Validate previously discovered answers
  • Convince yourself that an alternative is profitable
  • Adapt to changing climate and farming conditions
  • Share your ideas and discoveries with confidence

How EFAO’s Farmer-led Research Program works:

  1. Submit a research question, challenge or curiosity about your farm.
  2. EFAO member-farmers assess the feasibility and practicality of your project.
  3. If accepted, you receive support from EFAO to conduct research on your farm.
  4. Use this information to make decisions specific to your farm!

Eligibility requirements to receive funding for farmer-led research:

  • The farmer-led research program is open for applications from any farmer interested in testing the effects more ecological practices on their farm, be it in the realm of horticulture, field crops, livestock, or perennials.
  • You will conduct the research on your farm


Research Priorities

The Farmer-led Research Program supports current EFAO members to conduct research in the following areas of priorities, as decided by the EFAO membership. These priorities were set in 2016, and the EFAO conducted an updated priority setting survey in 2018.

  • Alternative livestock feed
  • Cover crops
  • Disease & pest control
  • Livestock breed selection
  • Nutritional quality of ecologically-raised foods
  • Pasture regeneration
  • Pollinator services
  • Seed production & breeding
  • Soil health
  • Weed control

Program Support

  • Current members: $500 farmer-fee stipend for research trials and variety trial “mother sites”; $250 farmer-fee stipend for variety trial “satellite sites”
  • Others: $425 farmer-fee + EFAO membership for research trials and variety trial “mother sites”; $175 + EFAO membership for variety trial “satellite sites”
  • Up to $1500 in approved research expenses
  • Help to design experiment, write and post Protocol in the Research Library
  • Support to execute the experiment, including check-ins and help with troubleshooting
  • Training programs related to on-farm research
  • Help to analyze data, write and post Research Report in the Research Library
  • Additional support as listed in Research Protocols

Program Goals

Short-term Goals

  1. Train and support farmers to collect rigorous and practical data that is meaningful for their farms, with the understanding that:
    • Every farm is different and often requires individualized answers
    • Empowering individual farmers to innovate is a catalyst for broader change
  2. Build EFAO’s research network by conducting new farmer-led research, archiving previous research and engaging the membership in the Program
  3. Conduct successful research projects that begin to support and encourage a culture of on-farm innovation in ecological agriculture
  4. Demonstrate potential of farmer-led research as a tool for innovation in ecological agriculture and build EFAO’s capacity to support the research, in order to secure funding for 3+ years

Long-term Goals

  1. Support and encourage a culture of on-farm innovation in ecological agriculture
  2. Broadly disseminate data and information about farming that encourages ecological practices
  3. Develop strategic partnerships that help support the needs of diversified, ecological farmers