Resilient Farmer Project

The Resilient Farmer Project addressed the needs of organic and transitioning farmers to reduce off farm purchases and labor while building soil fertility and minimizing weeds, insect pests, and plant diseases.  The project assisted farmers in implementign the elements of bio-extensive design and the making of on-farm fertility-enhancing materials, specifically compost, compost tea, biochar, and plant-based foliar sprays.


The key elements of a bio-extensive system are winter cover crops, green fallow (summer) cover crops, and crop rotation. A bioextensive system is innovative because:

  1. It uses a rotation including green fallow which trades land (production area) for the labor, energy, and other external inputs usually invested in weed control.
  2. It manages the long-term fertility of the soil in the traditional sustainable organic manner which relies on biology and is low in external inputs.
  3. The extended rotations and diversity of a bioextensive system (along with enhanced soil biology) suppress many of the diseases and insect pests that are problematic with more intensive systems.

This project was intended to encourage the investigation and adoption of organic practices — cover cropping, crop rotation, and on-farm practices to make soil amendments and fertilizers — that increase the sustainability of southern market farming and provide a range of agroecological and environmental benefits.

The project trained six cooperating farmers in the bio-extensive system used on the Cannon Horticulture plots, with cooperators selecting elements of the system to incorporate into their own farming practices. An initial orientation for cooperators was held in February 2012; cooperators also attended other Kerr educational workshops, and received site consulting visits from Kerr personnel at their own farms.

In addition, two large public workshops were held to demonstrate the bio-extensive system. The first of these “Resilient Farmer” workshops was held in April 2012, and focused on crop rotations and cover crops. The second, in April 2013, built on that foundation with a more in-depth look at amendments including biochars, compost teas, compost extracts, and foliar plant-based sprays.

Resilient Farmer Presentation April 2013


Managing Organic Matter for Soil Health and Fertility

This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 11-199.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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