Medella Bison Ranch Competition


We are entering a competition and would love your support! There is a cash prize for the best creative ideas on transforming an amazing historic 140-acre piece of property located in downtown Ashland, Oregon! When it’s time to vote, we would love your support! Comment on our post and we will keep you updated when voting starts. View the details of our proposal below.

  • Who we are: Cultivate Oregon is a, woman-led, non-profit project of Earth Island Institute, focused on regenerative agriculture issues, and building local seed and food system resiliency. Through education and advocacy, we are growing a diverse and equitable food system that promotes biodiversity, pollinator and soil health, heritage seeds, and resource conservation. We are farmers and educators.

  • Project: "21st Century Experimental Research Farm and Ranch" open to educational events for the public (i.e. schools, universities, professionals, and the general public), growing regionally-adapted seed crops for food, as well as providing vocational training for youth and adults in need. This project can be accomplished simultaneously and connected with the Red Willow Center, or other Native led projects. This project requires about 10 acres, though can be scalable up or down and can complement other efforts /projects on the land.

  • Project Goal: We are seeking to develop an experimental farming research facility open to the public, professionals, secondary school students, and universities. The goal is to study, evaluate, and develop experimental farming and ranching practices to produce healthy soils and sustainable high-demand healthy food products (crops and livestock) by enriching soils with plant residues derived from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Specifically, we hope to do research and development so that we can share the impacts of “Cover Crop Termination Strategies on Soil Health for No Till Row Crops” with the agricultural community in Oregon and beyond. We plan to accomplish this goal by growing locally adapted seeds from Hardy Seeds, Restoration Seeds, and Siskiyou Seeds and having maintenance support from youth seeking vocational skills.

  • Who will help: Activities will be led by Cultivate Oregon’s co-executive director and agricultural educator Ms. Rhianna Simes, M.S.Ed., and through volunteer time from Dr. Ray Seidler. Cultivate Oregon co-directors will take the lead on outreach and fundraising, including grant writing and virtual events to support the project. We intend to form additional coalition partners with regional Soil Water Conservation District personnel, local educators, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Family Nurturing Center, Community Works, Hardy Seeds, and other volunteers who will help with various aspects of the project.

    • Cultivate Oregon team: design and lead the experimental, no till farming research. Outreach, grant writing, and fundraising support for implementation and maintenance.

    • Hardy Seeds staff: will provide guidance and regionally-adapted seed to be used for cover crop termination and Hardy Seeds stock will be planted as cash crops after the terminated cover crops such as pre-industrial and/or heritage grains of a couple varieties (wheat, barley and maybe other grain types too) Restoration Seeds and Siskiyou Seeds will also contribute seeds to this effort.

    • Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District: will purchase the equipment needed for the no till farming experiments. The equipment will be owned by JSWCD as part of their equipment rental program, but will be used on this project.

    • Family Nurturing Center / Community Works: will provide adults and youth who are from abusive or dysfunctional backgrounds and are in need of vocational skills. Individuals in the Family Nurturing Center will provide weekly maintenance to insure that the experimental farming practices are implemented, sustained, and supported while learning real-world skills for the future.

  • The Need: The significant need for this experimental farming program and location is very real because many farmers can be hesitant to implement a new farming technique without assurance it will work, as it could mean the loss of entire crop season. In addition, youth and adults within the Family Nurturing Center and Community Works’ programs are in need of outdoor vocational skills, but many homeowners have concerns about these individuals being on their private property in close quarters. Our hope is that since the Bison Ranch is so large, and there would be space where this project could take place without the constraints of privacy concerns, nor the threat of potential farm income loss since expenses would be offset by grants and fundraising.

  • More about Research and Development: Cultivate Oregon seeks to partner with the Bison Medella project to study cover crop termination strategies on soil health that are beyond herbicide application and tillage. Our project seeks to better understand strategies for cover crop termination that are suitable for no till, organic systems that improve soil health and simultaneously protect Oregon’s native bee populations that nest in the ground.

Our proposal will benefit farmers across the state and beyond through our experimental approaches and extensive educational outreach strategies. Our study will measure soil health after terminating a cover crop by a short mow (four-inch stubble), a higher mow (eight-inch stubble), and use of a roller crimper in annual row cropping systems so that beginning farmers, student volunteers, and the general public can observe the trial, and benefit from the research. We also plan to create educational materials, and how-to videos to post online to increase the impacts of our outreach in order to support a broader adoption of no till cover crop termination strategies that protect ground-nesting bees.

  • Demonstrated Need: The practices that are associated with the high levels of soil carbon sequestration are called Regenerative or Conservation agriculture. However, there have been barriers to adopting regenerative soil practices. Farmers are reluctant to adopt what is perceived to be “new” practices to make the shift to regenerative agriculture.

    • According to the Living Soils Symposium 2020, regenerating soil health is the least known but most promising solution to sustain food production and create climate resiliency.
    • Studies have claimed that what is needed for more cover crop adoptions is an increase in funds to allow networks of farmers to learn from other innovators on how best to make new cover crop practices work. Research proposed in this study is meeting a current need and will provide such information to networks of family run farming operations.

    • With increasing climate extremes, now is the time to better understand the role of cover crops (based upon solid scientific research principles) and share the results with the farming community so they can learn how to adopt strategies that increase soil organic matter. The benefits of such regenerated healthy soils are now widely agreed upon, but boarder adoption of methods is still needed.

    • This so-called sequestered carbon slowly accumulates over time, removing atmospheric greenhouse gas and enriching soil with robust levels of beneficial organisms that nurture the next crop. The food production system becomes largely self-contained without the need for external toxic pesticides, nor mineral fertilizer inputs.

    • Conservation/regenerative agricultural practices can create healthy soil that produces sustainable and profitable nutrient-dense food and livestock without commercial toxic chemical inputs, while capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide as soil plant organic matter to help mitigate climate change. (See our recent international virtual Soil Symposium from November 2020 for ideas on how this is done and what scientists and practitioners around the world are saying, including 2020 Food Prize Laureate Professor Rattan Lal, Distinguished Professor Soil Scientist at Ohio State University.)

    • A December 2020 publication by over 100 soil scientists are reporting that biodiversity in soil impacts on soil health and what it means for sustainable agricultural practices in the next 100 and more years.

  • Cover Crop Benefits: The use of cover crops or “green manure” has been used in the U.S. since at least the time of “the farmer,” George Washington. There are records dating back 3,000 years on the historic use of cover crops. Many modern day farmers utilize this farming practice but according to one relatively recent survey, cover cropping may only be used on 2% of the U.S. farmland. This poor adoption level remains despite over 1,200 famers who have experienced nominal increased yields of corn, wheat, and soy with cover crops over a 5-year period.

Many studies have demonstrated benefits from such regenerative or sustainable conservation practices that encourage the use of cover crops. Research has also verified that cover crop mulch and dead roots help to retain soil moisture, increase soil organic matter an fertility, and protect crops during times of short-term droughts, and suppress soil and plant diseases and pests.

  • Oregon’s Native Bees: The health of all Oregonians is connected to the well-being of pollinators whose pollination services make the majority of our food available. There are numerous advantages to having active populations of native bees in local agricultural settings, including financial and other practical benefits.

Pollination services are essential to most farming systems, and research has shown that European honeybees don’t pollinate during weather events like rain, wind, or extreme heat. With mounting evidence that weather extremes are the new normal, the risk of reduced pollination from European honeybees is imminent. However, a new focus on the important role of native bees, that pollinate crops successfully during weather extremes, offers hope in a changing climate. Native pollinators that utilize crop stubble (for nesting) are key biological agents for pollination and resulting fruit set. However, despite the fact that there are 500 species of bees in Oregon, many farmers are not able to identify them, nor do they know how to enhance their habitat on the farm.

Healthier soils leads to healthier plants, and less need for toxic chemical inputs of all kinds. Our proposed research efforts seek to connect areas of farm life that optimize resources and integrate biological cycles through the management of crop stubble and carbon-rich material in the field. Many farmers terminate their cover crops by tilling them under; however, in the process, native bee eggs and queens are often killed since the many native bee species nest in the ground. Farmers are not aware that when they terminate their cover crop this way, they are also killing an important ally who could support other aspects of their yield and farm health.

  • Need for Cover Crop Research: Choosing the right cover crops and terminating growth is a complex issue needing more definitive scientific information. Literature on cover crop adoption is mainly based upon surveys of individual farmers and anecdotal information that determine whether or not they have used cover crops as a practice, rather than science-based studies of the results from before and after adoptions. While the results from these surveys maybe used to establish a rough estimate of cover-cropped acres, more useful information would include soil health parameters before and after cover crop use. “In order to fully demonstrate the impacts of increased cover crop use, we need baseline data and sound methods for tracking growth”.

Many farmers have expressed interest in no till systems; however, there is a lack of knowledge and strategy to address the dueling needs to access to their fields and how best to terminate cover crops. Common concerns over cover crops often focus on escaped plants or parts of the cover crop that are not terminated successfully that become a nuisance weed for future crops. To address these concerns, we are selecting only cover crops that grow two feet tall or less. This way, even if not all of the cover crops are terminated through the mechanical methods of mowing or crimping, the weedy plant will not compete with the cash crop.

  • Outreach strategies: Host field day and community wide educational outreach events. We will host field day events at each project site. Farmers, producers, and land managers will be encouraged to learn from, and observe, the trial as it is being conducted. We will demonstrate the walk-behind tractor with implements, explain the purpose of the study, and discuss the relevance of the tests being evaluated.

The purposes of these events are to encourage broader adoption of the conservation approaches being studied, educate the public, evaluate if farmers will adopt the methods, and share interim results from the study. During these outreach events, we will also discuss the relevance of carbon sequestration, sustainable healthy soil, and the importance of native pollinator habitat protections. In order to increase the impacts of these outreach events, we plan to create short how-to videos to post on social media and online to extend this learning opportunity to other communities across the U.S. The Field days will be supported by our project partners as well as by the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District Rural Conservationist and other staff.

  • Project Benefits - Our project will provide:
    • A solution to a current need in row crop farming—how to terminate a cover crop in a no till, no pesticide system and still enjoy the benefits of increased soil health;

    • Demonstrations of no till agriculture where the methods and results are readily visible;

    • Risk-free opportunity for farmers to learn about cover crop termination strategies that do not harm native bee populations;

    • An example of new technology / equipment developed to support small-scale row crop farmers in Oregon and beyond;

    • Access for farmers to observe cover crop termination methods and their results to encourage more demand for access to tools that support no till, organic agriculture;

    • Potential income streams for the landowner through outreach events, grants for operational support, investment from agricultural organizations, and more.

  • Project Beneficiaries: Many people will benefit from our project, including student farmers, participating host farms, Rogue Farm Corp new farmers, participants in educational workshop events, historically underserved no till, organic producers, Jackson and Josephine County residents who attend events and learn about projects, visitors to demonstration farms, Rogue Valley Farm to School children participants who visit farms, members of the agricultural community, participants in Oregon State University Extension programs, land managers, the audience of our online resources, Native / tribal /communities of color and the community at large.



Cultivate Oregon’s Responses to the 6 Criteria: "21st Century Experimental Research Farm and Ranch"


  1. Sustainability: Yes, there is a reasonable path to profitability and cash-positive revenue within the next 1-5 years.

    • Cultivate Oregon would take the lead on grant writing and other fundraising for the capitol needed for this project. There is a lot of support from Foundations and granting organizations for outdoor education, vocational training in rural areas, and farmer continuing education. We have the experience and dedication to raise the money needed to implement this important trial that will influence generations of farmers to come.

    • The value of locally-adapted seeds is only increasing. The cover crop seeds, heritage grains, and other regionally-appropriate seeds have immense value and seed companies all over the US are reporting 300-400% increase in sales. Seeds could be sold as an additional income stream.

    • Events and educational workshops that are related to, and support, the project will also be sources of income into the future.

  2. Capital:

    • This proposal will require outside investments. The applicant, Cultivate Oregon, have years of experience with grant writing and fundraising. We are prepared to pursue funding through private, commercial, and public donations, grants for outdoor education / vocational training / agricultural trial and education/ STEM training for youth, etc.


  3. Uniqueness:

    • Cultivate Oregon is inviting the Medella Bison Ranch to be part of making agricultural history that will inform farming practices for generations! The agricultural revolution is happening now, and what is needed is intentional experimentation with no till so that farmers are more willing to implement it as a way to save soil, reduce carbon outputs, and conserve natural resources.

    • This proposed project involves agricultural applications of emerging practices that have been supported widely by scientists, national politicians, other farmers, public and private funding sources, and international agencies such as the United Nations. This is the way of the future—we just need a place to show how it works!

    • Also, it is unique to combine farmer education with vocational training of youth and adults while growing a cash crop. This vision provides benefits to multiple audiences and accomplishes many beneficial goals simultaneously. Grow seeds, teach farmers, train the next generation, work with Native-led or other projects on the land --and make your property more beautiful and abundant. This project can complement other events or programs occurring on the Ranch. Win Win Win!

    • Our proposed projects are agriculture-based and therefore, are consistent with current property zoning.


  4. WOW Factor and Lasting Impacts:

    • Change behavior of farmers through direct instruction and guided practice;

    • Provide new technology / equipment that is currently unavailable to farmers;

    • Create a solution for a current need / problem that helps the economy, and the climate;

    • Enable more farms to implement best practices = no till and reduced till;

    • Shared observations, impacts, and results through farmer networks = OSU Small Farms Conference, Rodale Institute, and Chico State University Regenerative Ag Institute, among others;

    • Create a pathway for future investment, innovation, and commitment to no till agriculture;

    • Climate resilience / carbon sequestration methods for farmers;

    • Youth vocational training that gets youth outside to learn together and from mentors;

    • Grow locally-adapted seeds for food, cover crops, and to produce income;

    • Provide a service that is needed in our community;

    • Make connections between the farming community, youth at risk, and seeds!

    • Complementary to Native-led projects and other needs on the Ranch

  5. Clarity of Plan

    • Cultivate Oregon’s project has a clear plan because we developed the initial trial for a US Dept. of Agriculture funding proposal. We have a timeline, objectives, site maps, and more if this level of detail is of interest. We also have the community relationships with the Partners listed in this proposal (JSWCD, NRCS, Community Works, etc.).

    • We are professional educators, famers, event planners, and researchers. We have what it takes to design, implement, maintain, and report on a project of this size and scope. We would be thrilled at the opportunity to go deeper with our plans and share these details with you.

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