Addressing knowledge gaps in animal traction for vegetable production and forest management on Midwest farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2024: $46,660.00
Projected End Date: 04/01/2026
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Moriah Bilenky
Purdue University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Burning of fossil fuels for farming operations and fertilizer
production is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions
and associated climate crisis. Electric motors, robotics, and
other precision tools could reduce agricultural related
emissions. However, not all of these tools are likely to be
feasible for small farmers. Therefore, we may also look for low
tech innovations.

Animal traction is a regenerative power option for small and
medium sized farms worth examining further especially as fossil
fuels become depleted.

Animals cause minimal compaction, appreciate, and can regenerate.
Fuel can be grown on farm and some animals are multi-purpose.
Animal traction also provides social benefit for farmers and the
communities they exist in through enjoyment from working with and
observing animals, community events, and other business ventures
such as wagon and sleigh rides.

However, opportunities for aspiring teamsters to gain practical
applied knowledge is limited. Extension materials and programming
from public Universities is limited. 

Therefor we propose a collaborative effort among three farmers
and three institutions to provide hands on training and knowledge
transfer to Midwest farmers and woodlot owners. The innovation of
this proposal is the revival of an old practice as a climate
smart solution to powering small farms.

Project objectives from proposal:

Objective1 (O1): Provide hands on/intensive
training on animal traction methods for market gardeners and
woodlot owners in the Midwest through a collaborative effort
among the Sustainable Horticulture Lab, the Wendell Berry
Institute, and Tillers International.

Objective 2 (O2): In Partnership with aspiring
animal powered farmers develop and implement animal
traction-based research and demonstration plots at Purdue

Objective 3 (O3): Together with each farmer
partner create an individualized economic based animal traction
integration plan.

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.