Category: Research

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

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, or email

    07 Oct 2021

    The GISt of Missing Bobwhites

    The GISt of Missing Bobwhites

    Every May for the past 3 years, our research team has spent one morning a week at our Lewis Township facility in Brown County, listening for the mating calls of bobwhite quail. Starting before dawn, the team listens intently for their calls, hoping to hear at least one as a sign of their return to the area. Bobwhites have become a rarity in these parts and their natural habitats have experienced severe decline as small farms intermixed with forests and hedgerows are replaced by large row-crop fields. Our hope has been that as we transition this farm back to one with more bobwhite friendly elements, we will see their return. Unfortunately the team failed to hear any bobwhites, the same outcome as years 1 and 2. To get a better sense of why we weren’t seeing a reversal in this trend, Research Intern Luke Weyer chose to perform a habitat suitability assessment of the Lewis Township facility as his summer intern project.

    A habitat suitability model measures the quality of habitat based on three life requisites: winter food, cover, and nesting. In order for bobwhites to thrive, all three must be provided by the environment.

    “The data I collected on these variables were integrated into a geographic information system (GIS) to generate suitability maps for each requisite (see image). The results were less than stellar and not unexpected, given the lack of bobwhite calls. The model found moderate, but also adequate, suitability for both cover and nesting, yet food was much lower making it the limiting factor.”

    – Luke Weyer, Research Intern

    With this new data in hand, we have hope for future years. The native warm season grasses planted at Lewis Township are establishing well which will provide excellent habitat for bobwhites. These grasses provide the bobwhite more opportunities to find sheltered food sources, as well as more nesting cover.  “After the completion of my project, a bobwhite was heard near the property in August, so I think we’re moving in the right direction with our efforts” continues Weyer, “I look forward to what the future holds”.

    Greenacres plans to continue monitoring and improving habitats for bobwhites in Brown County.

    Winter food availability
    Nesting suitability
    Cover suitability
    The range of suitability.
    26 Sep 2020

    Grazing Cover Crops Year 2

    Grazing Cover Crops Year 2

    We are currently in our second year of the UT study.  In 2019 we had trouble timing our grazing, but this year our grazing went very well. Last year we saw more trampling than grazing due to the height and growth stage of the cover crops. This year we were able to get the cattle in each plot when the cover crops were still palatable, so we saw the opposite effect of 2019. Each grazed plot had the cattle in them for 24 hours at a time, and each plot was grazed two times. Our cattle loved eating the cover crops so much that they ran to the next plot like children running out to recess. Overall, the cover crops and grazing looked much better than they did in 2019.