A video on vegetable farmers and their innovative cover crop techniques

2004 Annual Report for ENE03-074

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $62,027.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont

A video on vegetable farmers and their innovative cover crop techniques


Cover crops are an integral part of sustainable agriculture because of their role in soil stewardship, pest management and crop rotation. Many vegetable farmers in the Northeast use cover crops, but their use is typically limited to small grains for preventing winter soil erosion. An educational video featuring 10 farmers using innovative cover cropping techniques was produced to help agency personnel conduct programs on new ideas about cover crop species, management strategies, and potential benefits.

A 70-minute educational video was produced that features 10 farms in 5 Northeastern states (MA,NH,NJ,PA,VT) who use innovative cover cropping techniques. These techniques include:

* rye, wheat, oats and/or hairy vetch as winter covers;

* winter rye for strawberry mulch;

* using (and selling shoots or tips of) field peas as spring cover;

* hairy vetch and rye strips grown between crops;

* using vetch and rye strips to suppress potato beetles;

* soil spader for incorporating cover crops;

* maintaining permanent ground cover for wheel tracks;

* living mulch between plastic mulch kept in place for 5 years;

* buckwheat, Japanese millet, and Sudex as summer smother crops;

* long term rotations with cover crops, and leaf mulch;

* white clover strips between crops;

* cover crops for no-till vegetable production.

The television-quality video was completed in May 2004. This project provides copies free-of-charge to agricultural service providers that will use it in educational programs. Otherwise the video may be purchased for $15 postage-paid from the University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture. See www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/videos

Objectives/Performance Targets

Of the 400 agency personnel that receive the cover crop video, 200 will use it in educational programs that reach at least 2,000 farmers.


In the spring of 2003, farmers were identified, selected, and prepared to participate in the video. An advisory group made up of a farmer (Hank Bissell, VT) an extension professor (Frank Mangan, MA) and a non-profit educator (Eric Sideman, ME) provided input on the planned video content.

Phone and e-mail communications with farmers explained the overall goal of the project and the specific cover crop techniques to be filmed at their farms, as well as instructions regarding filming procedures. A contract was developed and signed between UVM and the collaborating video production company, Workhorse Creative Media.

In summer and fall of 2003, a half-day of filming was scheduled on each of the ten participating farms. The weather required rescheduling only twice. Approximately one hour of raw footage was recorded at each farm. Each farmer gave a brief description of their farm, explained their approach to using cover crops, and described their innovative uses of cover crops. Visual images were captured to show the methods they use and how they fit into the farm’s production and marketing system.

In late fall of 2003, the audio portion of all farm taping was transcribed into text. Portions of the text were then selected to develop an early draft of the video script. The script was transformed into an audio-only draft of the video. This was edited prior to selection and insertion of video images to accompany the audio portion. Editing then continued of both audio and video throughout the winter of 2003-2004. An introduction was recorded, and visuals of farm locations, topics covered, resources available and credits were completed.

A final master of the video was delivered to the technical production company in Spring of 2004. Cover art, layout and logos were designed. Both VHS and DVD (with chaptering) versions were produced. Distribution started in May 2004. Using SARE-PDP state contact distribution lists and the veg-prod extension listserve, agency personnel and agricultural educators were notified that they could order the video free-of-charge.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Production of the video went smoothly; the challenge is getting the final product into the hands of extension educators. Despite 2 announcements via the veg-prod list serve, and announcements forwarded to the NE-PDP state coordinators, and the regional PDP coordinators, not quite half the target audience has been reached. Additional efforts this year will include advertising in industry magazines and personalized e-mail and snail-mail offers of the video to educators

Over 200 people have ordered the video so far, about half of these are farmers. Another 50 videos have been distributed through the NE-SARE PDP state coordinators at their July 2004 meeting in Northampton MA.

After additional promotion of the video to the target audience takes place in the coming year, in the winter of 2005-06 a follow up evaluation will be conducted by e-mail and phone to ascertain how the video was used in educational programs, and how many farmers were reached by these programs.


Steve Groff

Cedar Meadow Farm
Holtwood, PA
Hank Bissell

Lewis Creek Farm
Starksboro, VT
Bob Muth

Muth Farm
Williamstown, NJ
Cliff Hatch

Gill, MA
Lockwood Sprague

Edgewater Farm
Plainfield, NH
Will Stevens

Golden Russett Farm
Shoreham, VT
Eileen Droescher

Ol’ Turtle Farm
Easthampton, MA
Eero Ruuttila

Nesenkeag Farm
Litchfield , NH
Lou Lego

Elderberry Pond Country Foods
Auburn, NY