Match made in heaven: livestock + crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $247,740.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Erin Meier
Green Lands Blue Waters/MISA/UM

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: participatory research
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Bringing well-managed pastures, other perennial forages, manure nutrients, and legume sources of nitrogen back to annually cropped land is essential to restoring the ecological function of agricultural land and addressing a suite of environmental issues in the Upper Mississippi River Watershed. Accomplishing this far-reaching goal requires a foundation of trust-based relationships among multiple stakeholders, built on a shared understanding of the problems and possible solutions.

    This project seeks to foster re-integration of livestock and grain production systems in the North Central Region by engaging mainstream and underserved farmer organizations with regenerative agriculture organizations in collaborative work:

    • conducting an interactive survey of crop and livestock farmers in six states (IA, IL, IN, MN, MO, and WI) to gain an understanding of producer practices, challenges, and goals 
    • gathering and curating regional resources on crop and livestock integration; building integrated farm financial analysis tools and case studies
    • widely disseminating resources collected or developed through the project
    • beginning development of regional and state-specific educational programming based on the needs and interests identified in the survey.

    The survey will be distributed to at least 10,000 farmers through organizations the farmers trust. Survey results from at least 3,000 farmers will generate information on producer practices, attitudes, and goals. The survey will give partner organizations a better understanding of the concerns of row crop farmers wary of adding livestock to their enterprise and will help identify ways to overcome systemic challenges to livestock integration in today’s agriculture. This knowledge, coupled with collective experience of collaborators, will guide development of educational programming and other activities aimed at promoting environmental, economic, and social benefits of integrated livestock and crop systems in the North Central Region.

    Coordinated by the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group (MPFWG) of Green Lands Blue Waters, current project partners include farmer organizations, universities and state and federal agencies in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin. As part of this project, we intend to forge ties with new partners, including other mainstream livestock and grain producer organizations, as well as farming organizations that serve veterans, women, and people of color, to build a coalition of farmer-led partners to transition NCR agriculture toward a system that generates economic, social, and environmental rewards for farmers and communities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • MPFWG and partners will expand collaboration, inviting mainstream and underserved crop and livestock farmer organizations and farmers to participate in survey and resource development.


    • Through a comprehensive survey and in-depth case studies, partners will gain understanding of farmers’ current livestock and grain production practices, financial conditions, needs, and goals.


    • MPFWG collaborators and new partners will build a crop and livestock integration resource library and craft educational programming informed by survey results.


    • Farmers and farm educators across the Midwest will pursue strategies to integrate livestock and crop production on farms, resulting in increased continuous living cover.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.