Climate-Smart Farming and Marketing Project

Centering organic practices, small farms and customers as climate solutions!

The Organic Association of Kentucky and partners are working with farmers and buyers in Kentucky to promote the adoption of climate-smart farming practices and develop markets for climate-smart commodities. This project is part of USDA's historic investment in conservation and growing climate solutions. 

Farmers, Apply Now!

Project Goals

The project supports Kentucky farmers in telling the full story of farming systems and the environmental benefits of climate-smart practices, while working to grow regional market demand for climate-smart commodities. The project will provide direct technical assistance, educational programming, financial incentives and market development support for participating Kentucky farmers. This project supports farmers who want to implement climate-smart practices (e.g. cover cropping, perennial planting, rotational grazing), collect data on outcomes and engage with emerging markets seeking positive environmental and climate impacts. 

  • Enrolled farmers will receive financial incentives for implemented practices and free on-farm technical assistance for implementing climate smart practices on their operations.
  • Practices eligible for incentives could include conservation cover, conservation crop rotation, cover crop, residue and tillage management - reduced till, mulching, prescribed grazing, stripcropping, nutrient management, contour orchard and other perennial crops, forest farming, windbreak or shelterbelt establishment or renovation, silvopasture, field border, wildlife habitat planting, hedgerow planting, pasture and hay planting, vegetative barrier, herbaceous wind barriers, tree or shrub establishment. 
Read About Practices
  • Enrolled farmers will also receive free soil sampling and surface water testing; free consultations about the results of their farm’s sustainability assessment; a free conservation management plan recommending climate-smart practices to add or expand on the farm in the subsequent year(s); and much more.

  • Farmers can engage with a variety of educational events to learn more about climate-smart practices that could be implemented on their farms through OAK Field Days, workshops and conference events. 
  • OAK and its partners will support farmers in soil sampling, monitoring and measuring the benefits of the practices.
  • Partners will work with regional buyers to develop market opportunities for climate verified commodities grown and raised through this project to increase regional sales and access emerging markets. 

Cover Crops

Farmers Across Kentucky are Invited to Participate

Eligible farms must be located in Kentucky and can be small and diversified, large operations or anything in between. The project has a particular emphasis on enrolling underserved farmers, small farms and farms using organic practices. Farms must have commercial operations and currently be selling farm grown or raised products that are one or more of these commodities: produce; lamb/sheep; beef; corn, soybeans or small grains; hemp; or agroforestry products. Farms can be certified organic, in organic transition or conventional operations interested in expanding organic and conservation practices. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with varied timelines for start and end dates. Applying does not guarantee enrollment and is the first step in the process. 


Soil Sampling


Farmers will meet with OAK's Soil Health Specialists, working together to optimize the impact of climate-smart practices on one's farm to improve soil health, promote environmental benefits and increase overall resilience on their farmland. OAK works with farmers to collect data on reduced greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, soil health indicators, water quality, market development, animal welfare, biodiversity and more to capture and tell the full story of climate-smart practices on their farms in Kentucky. The experiences, information and market development from this project will support farmers to build on-farm resilience and enter markets that reward their stewardship. This project will also work alongside other projects to provide USDA with recommendations on ways to support small farms in the adoption of climate-smart practices. 


Participating farms will:

  • Participate in a farmer-led annual farm sustainability assessment, receiving $500 each year upon completion

  • Have access to technical assistance for developing climate-smart farming plans

  • Receive financial incentives up to $3,000 annually for verified implementation climate-smart practices

  • Receive $180 in soil testing annually for enrolled fields

  • Have the opportunity to participate in educational events

  • Learn from other farmers through a climate-smart peer network

  • Benefit from market development and marketing support

  • Allow project team scheduled access to enrolled farmland for data collection

  • Gain yearly insights from trends on the farm's soil heath, biodiversity, water quality, crop quality, and other indicators

  • Please note: enrolled acreage may not be enrolled in other NRCS cost-share programs for the same practices. 

Farm Enrollment Application Now Open

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Measuring Sustainability Global Farm Metric framework

This project involves adapting the Global Farm Metric (GFM) framework, developed by the Sustainable Food Trust in the United Kingdom, to create a Farm Sustainability Assessment Tool (FSAT) built for use in the US. This tool, the GFM-FSAT, includes several measures and indicators within 12 categories related to social, economic and environmental sustainability on farms. Participating farms will fill out the GFM-FSAT as part of the enrollment process to begin assessing the farm’s baseline sustainability. Each of the categories within the tool contains several metrics that result in a quantitative score. Scores within each category are recorded and serve as a guide for how the farm can achieve the greatest improvements through adoption or expansion of climate-smart practices. Farmers work with Soil Health Specialists through the project to develop management plans and support the implementation of select practices. 




Core Partners

Bullhorn CreativeFour Hills FarmKentucky Center for Rural and Agricultural DevelopmentKentucky State UniversitySustainable Food AllianceThe Berry CenterThe Food Connection at the University of Kentucky



Collaborators and Supporters

AramarkKentucky Department of AgricultureKentucky Division of ForestryKentucky Organic Farm and Feed Inc.Marksbury Farm MarketOrganic Trade AssociationUniversity of KentuckyVictory Hemp Foods



Are you interested in support for climate-smart practices outside of Kentucky, or curious about other opportunities? Visit USDA's interactive dashboard of Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities to learn about other projects.

This material is based on work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agreement number NR233A750004G092.



Questions about the project?

Contact Leigh Cocanougher, OAK's Climate and Conservation Project Manager, at [email protected] or 859-359-6554.