Vermont farmers depend on expert advice for crop production and soil nutrient management; it could mean the difference between a healthy crop of nutritious livestock forage or a field full of weeds. For many years, Extension Professor and Agronomy Specialist Heather Darby has been a well-known and reliable source of applied research, and field-tested crops and soils information. Her commitment to agriculture research, student mentoring, and delivery of countless on-farm education programs has been recognized with the 2023 Hubert W. Vogelmann Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship. Darby is the first Extension professor at UVM to receive this honor.
Darby was raised on a northwestern Vermont dairy farm, and she was involved in all aspects of managing it. The experience gave her an awareness of the dedication and hard work needed to operate a farm, and it permeated her career in agronomy research and outreach. These practical experiences, complemented by Darby’s education, have focused her attention on sustainable agriculture and the promotion of environmental stewardship.
Along with the namesake of the Vogelmann award, Darby is considered a pioneer in her field, a forward-thinker and humble leader. However, she has made significant impacts in dairy-based organic agriculture, nutrient management planning, and local grain production regionally and nationally.
UVM Extension Outreach and Program Manager Debra Heleba worked with Darby on several collaborations. Heleba is very familiar with the many projects Darby initiated and/or led to advance research and funding for organic farming systems. Heleba stated, “Heather is a founding member of eOrganic.info, a collaboration of researchers and Extension educators across the U.S. who develop researched-based, peer-reviewed content on organic farming system. She gained national attention through her development of goCrop, an online nutrient management tool that helps dairy farmers make field-based fertility decisions while protecting water quality. Heather works with farmers, bakers, and plant breeders from across the country to breed wheat varieties, notably creating varieties based on the work of Cyrus Pringle, an 1880’s UVM plant breeder. She also created the first university-based cereal grain testing laboratory on the East Coast, the E.E. Cummings Crop Testing Laboratory.”
Funding research is a challenging and highly competitive process at universities, but Darby has been able to procure over $21 million in funds during her tenure at UVM. She has also received approximately 144 grants since 2016 to support her projects, totaling more than $14.5 million. As Animal and Veterinary Sciences Associate Professor Jana Kraft stated, “Dr. Darby demonstrates an exemplary, sustained ability to secure externally funded grants and contracts to support her research and team including staff, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers. She is among the most successful and prolific faculty at UVM.”
Darby’s published research includes almost 50 peer-reviewed journal publications in top-rated journals, nearly 35 abstracts and proceedings, and more than 150 research reports and white papers in ScholarWorks, along with several book chapters and software publications.
Inside and outside of UVM, Darby is well respected for her insights, tireless energy, and dedication. Despite being one of the busiest people that Plant and Soil Science Professor Eric Bishop von Wettberg knows, he considers her an outstanding colleague who finds time for service and mentoring. He said her guidance when he first arrived at UVM was invaluable. She has demonstrated a strong commitment to research mentoring of students at UVM by serving on 25 graduate student doctoral and thesis committees. Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski appointed Darby to his Research Advisory Council, and stated, “Heather is an outstanding teacher, and she has also demonstrated a strong service record nationally, in the community, and for the university.”
The Hubert W. Vogelmann Award in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) honors Professor Emeritus Hubert “Hub” Vogelmann, former chair of the CALS botany department and himself a model for the award’s criteria. The award recognizes outstanding effort and achievement in research and scholarship. The recipient of this annual award has his/her name engraved on commemorative plaque and receives an award of $2,500.00 which can be used to support his/her research efforts.
Article Written By: Joanna C Cummings
June 26, 2023 — Univeristy of Vermont, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Orignal Article can be found at: https://www.uvm.edu/news/cals/extension-professor-heather-darby-receives-2023-hubert-w-vogelmann-award