This research will point UNH -- and, Aber and his collaborators hope, organic dairy farmers from around the Northeast -- toward alternative farm management practices that could lead to more stable economic outcomes for small family farms. "We're moving toward a sustainable, closed system," says Aber, "and toward best-practices to achieve that goal."
Such an ecosystem-level approach to a commercial organic dairy production is unique, at least in the United States, where UNH's organic dairy farm is the first commercial-scale research organic dairy. Aber and co-investigator William McDowell, also a professor of natural resources, bring to the project forest ecosystem experience as investigators on the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program.
Other co-investigators are associate professor of hydrogeology Matt Davis, Charles Schwab, professor of animal and nutritional sciences and a leader in the founding of the organic dairy, and organic dairy project director Kevin Brussell. "The synergy of ecosystems expertise and dairy expertise is far greater than the sum of its parts," says Aber.
"Family dairy farms are a vital part of the landscape and legacy of the Northeastern United States," says UNH chief sustainability officer Tom Kelly, who conceived of this project. "This research will help small farmers in this region make informed decisions in the face of an uncertain energy and economic future and contribute to a more resilient food system.
|Contact: Beth Potier|
University of New Hampshire