Category: News

03 Oct 2022
greenacres employees planting in gardens

Metabolomics Research Project

greenacres employees planting in gardens

Researchers exploring the impact of regenerative farming systems on food quality and human health

As new data has come out suggesting that plant-based meat substitutes are worse for gut-health, our research team has been busy conducting ground-breaking nutritional research with Utah State University in the hopes of better understanding the connections between farming practices, diet, and human health. The team is specifically focusing on an area of nutrition known as food metabolomics, which is the study of metabolites.

Metabolites are endogenous compounds such as amino acids, lipids, sugars, organic acids, etc., found within an organism. These compounds can transfer from soil to plants and also to the animals that eat these plants. Until now, there has been limited research into what then transfers to the human consumers of these various products. With this research we are hoping to gain new insight into the quantities of metabolites that are able to transfer during each phase, and the effect different farming practices have on this amount. It will provide evidence as to how agro-ecological farming practices directly affect human health.

Our researchers are collaborating with Utah State’s Dr. Stephan Van Vliet who has done previous research on metabolites. His early work has indicated that agro-ecological farming practices do increase health-promoting phytochemicals in meat. Now, we want to know if these phytochemicals transfer to humans through meat, produce, and dairy and if they help promote overall health.

researchers collecting soil samples in gardens

“Regenerative farming has potential benefits for soil health and biodiversity above and below ground. Despite promising environmental benefits, it is currently not known if producing food regeneratively also has a benefit for consumers. We hope to find how regenerative vs. conventional farming systems impact the nutrient density of food and biomarkers of human health. This work uses a novel metabolomics analysis to look at 500 compounds in foods and their potential transfer to human metabolism; an approach best described as being from farm to table to us.”

Dr. Stephan Van Vliet, Utah State University

During this two-year study, a registered dietitian has come up with a 7-week meal plan for the participants. These participants are moderately healthy adults between the ages of 30-60. For nearly two months, participants are fed foods produced using regenerative farming methods, including meat, eggs, and produce grown at Greenacres that the team ships out weekly. The participants are then fed the same 7-week meal plan, but with ingredients that come from conventional farming practices. During both phases of the diet, markers of  inflammation, oxidative stress, gut microbial diversity, and circulating metabolomes are monitored and compared.

“Despite potential major ecological benefits, we lack critical knowledge regarding the benefits of food consumed from regenerative farming systems to human health. To address this question, Greenacres Foundation is partnering with Dr. Stephan Van Vliet and Utah State University to investigate the impact that agricultural production practices have on crop and animal nutrients and ultimately the health of humans.” 

Jennifer Mansfield, Greenacres Research Specialist

chicken in mobile coop

We are also providing the Utah State team with soil, forage, and fecal samples to better understand how the nutrients transfer from soil to forage to animal to human.

For questions about this research please send inquiries to mail@green-acres.org

08 Sep 2022
two researchers collecting soil samples

Regenerative Agriculture Grants

two researchers collecting soil samples

Agriculture Research Grants Available

Supporting Regenerative Farming

A Cincinnati based non-profit, Greenacres Foundation, is awarding up to $400,000 in grants for research focused on Regenerative Agriculture. Regenerative practices can lead to positive outcomes for soil, land, water, climate, and farmer welfare. With climate change and food security dominating headlines, the interest in regenerative practices is growing. Greenacres hopes to facilitate more research to support this burgeoning industry.

two researchers collecting soil samples

“Regenerative agriculture is gaining traction as a solution to nourishing a growing population while having a positive impact on our climate and water.  Currently, the traction is outpacing the science, often due to the lack of funding.  To drive the adoption of regenerative practices in agriculture, we need to continue to fill knowledge gaps through research.  I am thrilled to work for an organization that has committed to funding research in this area which in turn will provide insights into the benefits of regenerative farming practices.”

Chad Bitler, Greenacres Research Director

Greenacres would like proposals that seek specific outcomes of regenerative practices, including:

    • Advancing the understanding of ecosystem processes occurring in regenerative systems.
    • Improving soil health using agro-ecological principles
    • Improving resilience of agricultural lands.
    • Understanding perennial/pasture-based food production systems.
    • Integrating livestock into cropping systems.
    • Understanding the impact of production practices on the nutrient density of food

    Qualified organizations have through September 30th to submit their proposals to be considered for this year’s grant cycle. For more information please visit, www.green-acres.org/research/agriculture-research-grant/ or email research@green-acres.org

    25 Aug 2022

    Summer 2022 Update

    Summer 2022

    An Evening of Hope for Ukraine

    In late July, Greenacres hosted An Evening of Hope for Ukraine. Thank you to our guests, sponsors, donors, and volunteers for making it such a memorable and impactful evening! With everyone’s generous support, Greenacres was able to exceed our fundraising goal of $250,000, raising close to $300,000. All funds raised for the event were donated to Matthew 25 Ministries for their immediate and organized humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine. To learn more and support Matthew 25 Ministries’ efforts to provide relief to the people of Ukraine, please visit their website.

    What is Ley Farming?

    Healthy produce starts with healthy soil. As vegetables grow, nutrients are transferred from the ground and absorbed into the plant. With each harvest, we are removing those nutrients in the form of vegetables, and the soil becomes less nutrient-dense. Without a way to replace these nutrients, the ground would eventually be depleted of all of its life supporting properties. So how does Greenacres add nutrients back into the soil for the next harvest without relying on man-made chemical inputs like fertilizers? Enter Ley farming; an ancient solution that allows us to generate all the fertility we need!

    Before chemical inputs such as fertilizer or pesticide were available, farmers focused on building soil using slow, holistic methods. One of these methods was something called Ley farming, which is a pre-industrial agricultural practice in which a field is rested and grazed by animals for a period of time with the intention of building fertility through roots and animal impact. In this system fields were put into grasses and grazed with livestock. This process was meant to closely resemble the way soil was built in the plains and was sometimes used as a primary fertility system before industrialization. Unfortunately, Ley farming fell out of practice once synthetic fertilizers became widely available, leading to the expansion of monocrop commodity agriculture we commonly see today.

    Today in our Ley Field, Greenacres is taking these pre-industrial practices and adding modern farming principles. Our 4-acre plot is divided into four quadrants. Two of the plots are dedicated to growing consumables, and the other two are grazing crops for livestock. Every year, one quadrant is rotated from vegetable production to grazing pasture and one vegetable quadrant is moved back into grazing. Our Garden Manager, Ian Zeglin, informs us, “we use our own compost and woodchips for weed-suppression, but no outside inputs are used in our Ley field. No fertilizer of any kind has ever been used in that field. Through cover crops and animal impact we have been able to use nature-based systems to build soil fertility for our intensive vegetable production.”. Much of our Farm Store produce comes from our Ley Field – including flowers, melons, cabbage, and more!

    farmers planting young pepper crops in Ley field

    “We use our own compost and woodchips for weed-suppression, but no outside inputs are used in our Ley field. No fertilizer of any kind has ever been used in that field. Through cover crops and animal impact we have been able to use nature-based systems to build soil fertility for our intensive vegetable production.

    -Ian Zeglin, Garden Manager

    Michaela Farm

    The staff at Michaela Farm has been hard at work expanding production and getting new gardens set up. On the St. Mary’s side of the farm, a new 8-foot tall deer fence was installed. With the completion of this new deer fence, the Garden team was able to get some of our fall and winter produce planted, as well as some cover crops to keep our soil healthy. Plans for a new educational facility are coming together and we are eager to break ground soon!

    Summer in the Greenacres Michaela Farm Store means there is an abundance of herbs, pickling cucumbers, green cabbage, sweet onions, leeks, and potatoes. If you find yourself in Oldenburg, IN, make sure to stop by and pick up some fresh veggies!

    two farmers walking through field with garden on their left

    Exploring with Grace

    In addition to our summer camp participants, Greenacres welcomed more than 200 children from local recreation centers, libraries, and other nonprofits who serve under-resourced areas to our education sites. These visits were made possible through The Exploring with Grace Fund which honors the memory of Grace Lewis. Grace loved the outdoors, animals and the wood and farm lands of Greenacres. This fund helps share her passion with other children. Through an environmental, agricultural and artistic lens, these guests were empowered individually while learning to be stewards of the environment.

    Chaperones who attended the programs with their groups were thrilled with the opportunity. After experiencing Greenacres, one group coordinator said the group was, “extremely impressed with everything about the field trip! From the very welcoming greetings and send offs, to the ease at which the staff interacted with the children; the group management techniques, subject matter and activities. It was AWESOME!”. If you know an eligible group who may be interested, please contact Katie Brown at kbrown@green-acres.org or 513-898-3262.

    instructors lead group of children through pasture

    “I try hard to schedule summer activities that involve nature, animals, and opportunities to learn how to support and learn about
    the Earth. I was extremely impressed with everything about the field trip! From the very welcoming greetings and send offs, to the ease at which the staff interacted with the children; the group management techniques, subject matter and activities. It was AWESOME!

    -Salvation Army Learning Center representative

    Summer Farm Tour

    Our Farm Tour on July 9th was a huge success! Greenacres CSA members and volunteers learned about our farming methods and got a chance to observe them up close. We welcomed 80+ guests, who were very impressed with the program. They got to learn first hand about our compost facility, Ley field farming techniques, our research work, and our livestock practices. The feedback received was very complimentary and everyone in attendance would like to attend similar events in the future to learn more about Greenacres. We look forward to organizing more events like our Farm Tour soon. 

    adult visitors standing outside near garden, talking to farmer

    Music in the Meadow

    On August 4th, we hosted Music in the Meadow at Greenacres Lewis Township.  John Morris Russell led the Cincinnati Pops in a long awaited return to Brown County, entertaining our guests through A Night at The Movies including scores from Harry Potter and E.T.  The performance was great! Added to the Pops music was the background of birds and bugs as the flora and fauna of Greenacres Lewis Township chimed in. There are few places where you can have an experience like that!

    Thank you to all who participated in preparing the site and the event. It was a great success and as one attendee said – “ I cannot believe that the real CSO is playing in Brown County – amazing – thank you!”.

    John Morris Russel talking to concert audience

    “I cannot believe that the real CSO is playing in Brown County – amazing – thank you!

    -Concert Attendee, at Music in the Meadow

    Metabolomics

    Throughout the summer, our research team has been sending weekly shipments of our produce and meats to our research partners at Utah State University. We are both funding and participating in an exciting metabolomics research project, led by Dr. Van Vliet, in which we hope to better understand the connection between farming practices, diet, and human health. Metabolomics are the scientific study of metabolites, which are endogenous compounds such as amino acids, lipids, sugars, organic acids, etc., within an organism.

    Dr. Van Vliet is dedicated to studying how agro-ecological farming practices, like those used at Greenacres, affect nutrition and human health. His previous work has indicated that agro-ecological farming practices do increase health-promoting phytochemicals in meat. Now we want to know if these phytochemicals transfer to humans and help promote overall health.

    In this two-year study, participants who are moderately healthy adults between the ages of 30-60, are fed an agro-ecological diet, including Greenacres produce and meats, for 6 weeks. This is then compared to those same participant’s 6-week conventional diet, monitoring for markers on inflammation, oxidative stress, gut microbial diversity and circulating metabolomes. Greenacres is also providing Dr. Van Vliet with soil, forage, and animal fecal samples to better understand how the nutrients transfer from soil to forage to meat to human. Greenacres is delighted to continue our long-term partnership with Dr. Van Vliet and Utah State University as we eagerly await the study’s preliminary data.

    two researchers collecting soil samples in gardens
    Greenacres Research team collects soil samples from our Indian Hill gardens to send to Dr. van Vleet at the Utah State University, along with Greenacres produce and meat, for the metabolomics research project.
    11 May 2022
    pond with tall grasses

    Spring 2022 Update

    wetland pond with tall grasses

    Spring 2022

    The Benefits of Multi-Species Grazing (Sheep and Cattle)

    This past April, agricultural team members, Michael Cox and Leevi Stump, traveled to Iowa and purchased 50 new ewes. Over the coming months, the new sheep will be integrated with our cattle herd. We are extremely excited about this multi-species grazing approach. Grazing different species together allows for better pasture utilization and can even help decrease undesired plant populations. 

    Sheep and cows are selective grazers, but each in a different manner. Sheep enjoy woody shrubs and bushes, while the cattle prefer the lush grass which makes for complete, even grazing of our pastures. When the animals graze together, it also helps deter large predators, like coyotes, from attacking the more vulnerable sheep. Our Agriculture Director, Michael Cox, also tells us that, “the combination of two different species in one pasture can help balance the parasite burden for the animals”.  And, since the two animals have different harvest times, this means we will have a steady meat supply in the farm store!

    six sheep and one bull in grass field

    “The combination of two different species in one pasture can help balance the parasite burden for the animals.

    -Michael Cox, Agriculture Director

    Michaela Farm

    In addition to hosting a handful of school field trips and clean-up events, Greenacres’ Michaela Farm is having an active gardening season this spring!  We are currently working on a plan that would expand the farm’s production to meet educational needs at this location and better serve our customers. This is an ongoing project that will be coming together over the next few months. If you are in Oldenburg, Indiana and find yourself at Michaela Farm, make sure to stop by the farm store! We currently have fresh produce, eggs, and a wide selection of vegetable, flower, and herb start transplants for your home gardens.

    Fresh Finds at the Farm Store

    Just in time for our annual Mother’s Day weekend plant sale, our Garden Crew helped to beautify the Greenacres storefront by planting wildlife-attracting landscaping. The team hopes to add additional native and seasonal landscaping throughout the Greenacres properties. Our farm store continues to be filled with beautiful flower bouquets and arrangements, which are available throughout the year. Lilies, ranunculus, anemone and bachelor’s buttons mixed with other seasonal beauties are currently available until the summertime zinnias and sunflowers come along. Our produce selection continues to expand with the warmer weather – we have a large variety of fresh herbs, beets are back, and our customers have been enjoying the asparagus provided by Michaela Farm. As we ramp up for the summer season, keep an eye on our email newsletter and the website to know when your favorite summer veggies come into the Farm Store!

    bouquet of flowers

    Come See Our Newest Classroom at Lewis Township!

    Construction is officially complete for our education facility in Lewis Township! As part of our efforts to be green, we made sure to equip this building with an abundance of green features. A geothermal energy system was installed for heating and cooling. Since the geothermal system only requires electricity to run the heat pump and blower motor, it uses significantly less power and produces fewer carbon emissions than a conventional system (e.g. gas, oil, electric). 

    The facility also contains automated solar tubes (or sun tunnels) designed to bring external light into the building. Our Buildings and Grounds Director, Alex Saurber tells us, “by using the sun’s natural light, we are able to reduce the amount of electricity needed to illuminate the building.” He also adds that, “the amount of light that is let in can be adjusted to accommodate for various activities throughout the day.” We are thrilled this new classroom is up and running, and look forward to hosting more field trips and events at this location soon!

     “By using the sun’s natural light, we are able to reduce the amount of electricity needed to illuminate the building. The amount of light that is let in can be adjusted to accommodate for various activities throughout the day.”

    -Alex Saurber, Buildings and Grounds Director

    tall grasses and wildflowers in front of pond and educational facility

    Greenacres Events Coming Soon

    Our events team is looking forward to a full calendar of weddings this year but these ceremonies and receptions are not the only events on the radar! On Friday July 8, 2022, we will be hosting the annual Music Under the Stars. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Poptet will be putting on a groovy performance of 70’s favorites at the Arts Center, in the beautiful gardens.

    The following week, on Saturday July 16, 2022 Greenacres is organizing a fundraiser, An Evening of Hope for Ukraine.  This event supports humanitarian aid efforts benefitting the people of Ukraine. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Matthew 25: Ministries and will be used exclusively for humanitarian efforts benefitting the people of Ukraine.

    Events Director, Kyle Conlon reminds us, “These events sell out quickly! Make sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our email newsletter to be the first to know when tickets go on sale.”

    fountain and trees

    These events sell out quickly! Make sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our email newsletter to be the first to know when tickets go on sale.

    -Kyle Conlon, Events Director

    Music in the Meadow

    On Thursday August 4, 2022, we will be celebrating the official opening of Greenacres Lewis Township with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. John Morris Russell will lead the Pops in the 90-minute concert performing “A Night at the Movies”. The set list will feature music from some of your favorite films. This event is open to the public and a great opportunity to learn about Greenacres and our plans for the property. This is a free event, but we ask that all guests RSVP for planning purposes.

    Watching Life Grow at Greenacres

    Spring is the season of new life and growth and what better place than Greenacres to witness this? Our education department has enjoyed having school field trips organized throughout the Greenacres properties while students return to in-person field trips. Our administrative coordinator, Katie Brown, tells us, “All around the farm, students can learn about and observe first-hand the various phases of animal and plant life cycles. Greenacres is a perfect place to see all the new animal babies in the spring!” From an abundance of tadpoles in our ponds, to the young calves in our pasture, and all of the macroinvertebrates in between, there is so much growing life to observe at Greenacres! 

    If you are an educator interested in field trips, please contact our Education Coordinator Katie Brown. Our Education Team creates exceptional field trip experiences for each and every visitor we serve. We collaborate with classroom educators to build customized, hands-on interactive experiences aligned with grade-level academic learning standards. You can use our field trip programming tool to browse popular topics by grade and by academic subject.

    group of four children and two adults walking in grass field

    “All around the farm, students can learn about and observe first-hand the various phases of animal and plant life cycles. Greenacres is a perfect place to see all the new animal babies in the spring!”

    -Katie Brown, Administrative Coordinator

    Spring Equine Lessons

    Our Equine department’s 13-week Spring Session is coming to close and we are looking forward to the 2022 Equine Summer Camps! We welcomed 21 new riders off of the waitlist and had a total of 65 students enrolled in the lesson program this Spring. The Greenacres Pony Club Riding Center members have been busy attending horse shows this Spring. All of the horse and rider pairs competing this Spring have finished within the top 8 in their divisions. Our Equine Manager, Becca North tells us, “we still have an active waitlist, so if you are interested in enrolling in the lesson program we invite you to join the waitlist through the equine page on the Greenacres website.”

    We still have an active waitlist, so if you are interested in enrolling in the lesson program we invite you to join the waitlist through the equine page on the Greenacres website.

    -Becca North, Equine Manager

    What does Healthy Soil Look Like?

    Every Spring, our Research department spends several weeks monitoring our pastures and woodlands. This helps ensure that all of our ecosystems are healthy and functioning correctly. This Spring, the team completed some essential assessments, including vegetation surveys, litter surveys, soil sampling, and faunal sampling. When conducting faunal sampling, our researchers look for animal life using pitfall traps and “herp circles”. 

    The pitfall traps are used to survey arthropod communities (small macroinvertebrates such as springtails, millipedes and spiders) while the  “herp circles” (15-meter diameter circles) help us look for reptiles and amphibians. The arthropod community’s composition gives us insight into litter decomposition, nutrient cycling, and overall ecosystem functioning. Research Assistant Chad Gibson tells us, “Searching for reptiles, and especially amphibians can help interpret ecosystem health due to their extreme sensitivity to pollutants and disturbance.” With continued monitoring, we can notice changes in faunal populations and make more informed decisions when it comes to our land management.

    long tailed salamander on log

    “Searching for reptiles, and especially amphibians can help interpret ecosystem health due to their extreme sensitivity to pollutants and disturbance.”

    -Chad Gibson, Research Assistant