The Middle Border On-Farm Research and Information Network

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1988: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1992
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Patrick Moore
Land Stewardship Project

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, flax, millet, oats, rye, sorghum (milo), soybeans, spelt, sunflower, wheat
  • Vegetables: beans, lentils, peas (culinary), cucurbits, radishes (culinary)


  • Animal Production: grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: cultivation
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: green manures


    The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, the Kansas Rural Center and the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project formed a partnership in 1988 to conduct on-farm demonstrations, carry out research and disseminate information about low-input/sustainable agriculture practices to farmers in the "Middle Border" of the United States. For the purposes of this project, the "Middle Border" is defined as southwestern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, Nebraska and northeast Kansas.

    The Consortium developed farmer-to-farmer information exchange networks and established more than 100 LISA on-farm demonstrations and 14 replicated trials in the Middle Border region. Each organization in the Consortium has cooperated in the sharing of LISA on-farm research and demonstration methodologies and in the development of working relationships with University and Extension researchers. The Consortium carries out interstate on-farm research projects and cooperates in the organizing of LISA workshops and farm tours. The Consortium will continue to generate newsletters, pamphlets, handbooks and video tapes for distribution to the farmers of the Middle Border.

    A distinguishing feature of the Consortium is that it relies primarily on local farmer networks to determine what should be researched and how it should be carried out. These networks provide important social support to farmers making the transition to LISA farming systems. They also serve as vehicles for local experiment stations and others to use in technology transfer and in disseminating findings from institutional research on LISA practices.

    In its third and final year of operation, the Consortium will carry out on-farm research and demonstrations on a wide variety of economically sound LISA practices, including but not limited to:

    • Assessing the Farmer usability of the on-farm soil nitrate test kit;

    • Comparisons which research and demonstrate the varying capabilities of raw manure, compost and legumes to build and maintain soil fertility;

    • Use of the rotary hoe for weed control in row crop production;

    • Overseeding of legumes as a winter cover crop and a spring plowdown green manure;

    • The use of more moisture conserving legumes in crop rotations and as interseeded crops with small grains.

    The Middle Border on Farm Research Consortium is an innovative, grassroots-based initiative with far reaching potential. The third year of USDA LISA funding will help establish the regional farmer networks as viable, self-sufficient, non-profit organizations that will continue on their own with the benefit of interstate networks and university linkages. The successful establishment of these networks is key to the Consortium's overall goal of bridging the gaps between farmers, researchers and private non-profit organizations in order to foster the widespread adoption of LISA practices throughout the Middle Border region.

    Project objectives:

    1. Disseminate information on LISA farming techniques to the farmers of the Middle Border through workshops and farm tours.

    2. Develop more self sufficient farmer-to-farmer, on-farm research networks to conduct and promote the widespread adoption of LISA practices.

    3. Refine the documentation and methodology for participatory on-farm research

    4. Integrate information generated from the Consortium's participatory on-farm research experience into mainstream publications, and University/Extension information dissemination channels.

    5. Publish books, reports and video tapes on low-input sustainable practices for distribution to farmers of the Middle Border.

    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.