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CEFS receives $2.5 million in new grants

Researchers at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems have received three grants totaling more than $2.5 million since July to support research and education at the center’s 2,000-acre research farm in Goldsboro and on farms across the state.

In September, CEFS researchers received $1,415,833 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative for “Evaluation of the Milk and Meat Residues of Organic Therapies for Mastitis.” Mastitis is a common disease in dairy cows and is usually treated with antibiotics. CEFS researchers will evaluate three commonly-used herbal organic mastitis products to determine if any residues remain in the milk and meat of treated cattle.

“We’re trying to help organic farmers continue to provide safe milk and meat to consumers by providing them with more information about the products they can use,” said Dr. Keena Mullen, one of the project investigators.

The project will culminate with short training courses and online seminars to share the research with farmers and other industry stakeholders. The study includes investigators Drs. Steve Washburn and Keena Mullen of NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as well as Drs. Kevin Anderson and Ronald Baynes from NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Sharon Mason of Campbell University.

Also in September, CEFS researchers received $995,710 from the USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grants program for “Improving Soil Health on Pasture-Based Livestock Farms in the Southeastern U.S.”. The funding will allow CEFS researchers to implement diverse forage systems on nine private farms and six research stations in North Carolina and Georgia, with the goal of evaluating soil nutrient distribution and improvement in soil health.

The project will help expand the scale and geographic reach of the Amazing Grazing program, a CEFS-based initiative that provides educational opportunities and hands-on training to help livestock producers understand their farm as a dynamic ecological system and maximize benefits associated with raising their animals on pasture. Investigators from NC State include Dr. Matt Poore, Animal Science Department; Dr. Miguel Castillo, Crop Science Department; and Dr. Alan Franzluebbers, USDA and Soil Science Department.

In July, CEFS researchers received a $103,784 grant bythe Walmart Foundation, for “Sustainable Soil Management Practices for Strawberries: Diverse Approaches for Facilitating Adoption.” The grant is administered by the University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture, Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability.

The research builds on previous work conducted by NC State’s Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, Dr. Gina Fernandez and doctoral student Amanda McWhirt to evaluate soil management practices like compost, summer cover crops and beneficial soil inoculants. The research will promoting the long-term sustainability of strawberry production systems in the Southeast.

The grant will help continue this research and fund the expansion of the project to include multiple statewide on-farm research projects and Cooperative Extension activities aimed at increasing awareness and the use of sustainable soil management practices on North Carolina’s strawberry farms. North Carolina ranks third in the United States in strawberry production in harvested crop value.

“We are very excited to receive this level of support for our innovative production systems research that assists growers across the state in implementing more sustainable practices on their farms and ranches,” CEFS Director Dr. Nancy Creamer said.

CEFS is a partnership of NC State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS’ mission is to develop and promote just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond. For more information about CEFS please visit