Our team was a collaborative group of academic, extension and doctoral student researchers who met internally and conducted an IRB-approved survey that engaged with myriad stakeholders. The result was a clear trifecta on relative timing of soil health initiatives: 1) Stakeholders (91%) embrace soil health and believe soil health should be the top priority for UVM research and outreach. 2) Existing policy demands farmers assess elements of soil health every two years for nutrient management plans. 3) Only a subset of desired metrics is available at commercial laboratories, most soil analyses are sent out of state to Maine or New York, and most data are privately held instead of deposited into public databases. Together, these three findings indicate that soil health be a central focus of UVM's ARS program. Yet, due to attrition, there are no longer any UVM faculty dedicated to updating the 30-year-old soil recommendations upon which regulations rely. There is opportunity for university-government-community partnerships and expanded employment opportunities in Vermont if collaborative resources were assigned to soil health.
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Neher, Deborah; Horner, Katie; von Wettberg, Eric Bishop; Scarborough, Matt; Harris, Jeanne; Darby, Heather M.; Badireddy, Appala Raju; Roy, Eric D.; Farley, Joshua C.; Faulkner, Joshua; and White, Alissa, "Resilient Soils for Resilient Farms: An Integrative Approach to Assess, Promote and Value Soil Health for Small- and Medium-Size Farms" (2021). USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Center. 7.