For Farmers

How to Participate

The application period for the 2024 ended on April 30. Thank you to all who applied. We will notify farmers who are accepted at the beginning of May or sooner.

Because some of the criteria we use in selecting participating farms may vary slightly from year-to-year, any interested farmers should sign up for the e-newsletter (see Subscribe to project updates in the right rail). That way, when the criteria that will be used in 2025 are finalized, including deadlines for submission of applications, you'll be automatically notified.

Field Selection Criteria & Process

What criteria are used to select fields for enrollment?

Answering this question revolves around looking at your farm from the standpoint of a Bobolink. Some fields have greater value to nesting grassland birds than others, so the process of selecting potential Bobolink Project fields begins by ranking fields offered by farmers and selecting those which are most biologically suitable for nesting grassland birds. For those farms which meet the following biological criteria, we then look at the financial aspects of the submitted bid (see below under Farm Selection Process - Example).

Here are the biological criteria that we look for when evaluating an application.

Field sizeSIZE

Fields that are 20 acres or more in extent. For thousands of generations grassland birds have nested in large, expansive open areas - and small fields just don't look like home. The bigger, the better. Note that the field size is based on acres of actual grassland; hence, a 20 acre farm that includes 2 acres of row crops plus farm buildings would not be considered as a potential Bobolink Project farm. NOTE: farmers who have been previously accepted into The Bobolink Project with bids of less than 20 acres and who have had Bobolinks on their submitted fields will still be considered.


Fields with shapes that resemble circles or ovals (green) are preferred over fields shaped as rectangles (red), complex shapes with lots of "edge" (yellow), or fields that are separated from each other by hedgerows or large roads (blue - suitability depends on nature of the barrier fragmenting the fields). Edge habitats (including tree lines that cut into fields) can expose grassland birds to a variety of predators, so grassland birds tend to avoid long and narrow, or convoluted fields. Long and narrow fields, or fields that are convoluted in their shape, will generally not be considered for inclusion in The Bobolink Project, regardless of their acreage.

Field shapes


Fields (outlined below in green) that are located in a landscape where there are other nearby fields (outlined in orange) are preferred over fields that are mostly surrounded by forest or suburban development (outlined below in red). Note that the surrounding fields may not necessarily meet the previous 2 criteria (size and shape). While isolated fields (especially large ones) are sometimes occupied by grassland birds, in general fields that occur in landscapes where there are nearby fields are preferred.

Surroundings 1 Surroundings 2

There may be circumstances where neighboring farmers may want to identify a shared area to submit for inclusion in The Bobolink Project.

Field surroundings In the example to the right, farms Blue, Orange, and Green are, on their own, below The Bobolink Project's acreage requirement (11 acres, 10 acres, and 6 acres respectively). However, if these three farmers submitted a joint bid, totaling 27 acres, all three farms would be eligible for inclusion in The Bobolink Project.

Note that, under these circumstances, a single bid would be submitted by a lead farmer; if successful, this individual would be responsible for signing The Bobolink Project contract and disbursing the resulting payment among his/her participating neighbors.

NEW Continuing Eligibility Policy for Returning Applicants

We've learned a lot over the last 5 years of running The Bobolink Project with our partners in Vermont and New Hampshire and we've made some changes to our eligibility requirements for applying farmers. Starting in January 2022, any fields that have been enrolled in The Bobolink Project for three previous years, but have not had any grassland nesting birds in those three years, will no longer be eligible for funding through The Bobolink Project.

Additionally, if a field is determined to not have suitable habitat by the biologists who survey the field in the summer, it will no longer be eligible for inclusion in The Bobolink Project. We do our best to virtually evaluate habitat before accepting applications into the program, but our methods are not always completely accurate.

Our goal is to help produce more grassland birds and funds are always limited, so we must direct those funds to fields that are suitable habitat and have demonstrated usage by grassland nesting birds. We unfortunately cannot control where the birds go, but must do our best to protect the fields that they choose to nest in.

Questions? Contact [email protected].

Farm Selection Process—Example

The best way to explain the process is to use an example.

Please note that this example is scaled down for ease of communication—we receive many more applications and more funds from donors than is shown here.

Let's say that The Bobolink Project has received $10,000 in donations from conservation donors. There are 4 farmers (Giles, Jones, MacDonald, and McGregor) who own fields that, according to the criteria above, would be acceptable for inclusion in The Bobolink Project. A bid from Miller to include a farm of 10 acres @$30/acre would not be considered because of the field's small size.

Each of these farmers faces different financial pressures, and owns differently-sized fields. Each makes a confidential bid to enroll their farm in The Bobolink Project, according to the details outlined below.

MacDonald 50 25 $1,250
Miller 10 30 $300
Jones 75 40 $3,000
Giles 25 50 $1,250
McGregor 120 55 $6,600

The total of all four eligible bids is $12,100, which is $2,100 more than the $10,000 The Bobolink Project received in donations. Participating farms are then chosen through a fixed price reverse auction process.

BID 1: MacDonald - $25/acre, 50 acres

At $25/acre, MacDonald's bid is the lowest, so that farm is selected as a participant. After subtracting the total cost of this bid from the total available donations, The Bobolink Project still has $8,750 to disburse.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $1,250 (MacDonald)
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $8,750 ($10,000 - $1,250)

BID 2: Jones - $40/acre, 75 acres

The next lowest eligible bid belongs to Jones at $40/acre for 75 acres, a total potential payout of $3,000. Since lower bids are automatically adjusted to match the highest accepted bid, MacDonald's bid would be adjusted to $40/acre as well.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $2,000 (MacDonald); $3,000 (Jones)
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $5,000 ($10,000 - $2,000 - $3,000)

BID 3: Giles - $50/acre, 25 acres

The next lowest bid belongs to Giles at $50/acre for 25 acres, which represents a total potential payout of $1,250. Accepting Giles's bid requires that the bids from MacDonald and Jones both be increased to match the new high bid of $50/acre. The sum total of these three bids is now $7,500.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $2,500 (MacDonald); $3,750 (Jones); $1,250 (Giles)
  • BIDS ACCEPTED: MacDonald, Jones, Giles
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $2,500 ($10,000 - $2,500 - $3,750 - $1,250)

BID 4: McGregor - $55/acre

The next bid belongs to McGregor at $55/acre for 120 acres, which represents a total potential payout of $6,600. Increasing the previous bids to $55/acre sums to $8,250; in combination with the $6,600 that would be required to cover McGregor's bid, the total is $14,850 - which exceeds the $10,000 in available donations. The bidding process therefore stops, with excess money ($2,500) held for the following season.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $2,500 (MacDonald); $3,750 (Jones); $1,250 (Giles)
  • BIDS ACCEPTED: MacDonald, Jones, Giles
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $2,500 ($10,000 - $2,500 - $3,750 - $1,250)


BID(S) TO FUND: $2,500 (MacDonald); $3,750 (Jones); $1,250 (Giles)

BIDS ACCEPTED: MacDonald, Jones, Giles


REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $2,500 ($10,000 - $2,500 - $3,750 - $1,250)

Note that by submitting a low bid, MacDonald guaranteed his/her inclusion in the list of farms whose bids were considered for enrollment in the program. MacDonald ultimately received more money than had originally been asked for--$2,500 instead of the original $1,250. The same was true for Jones, who received $3,750 instead of the original bid of $3,000.

Important Considerations

  1. Your submitted bid should be as low as possible given your financial constraints. If your farm is selected, it is possible that you will receive an amount that exceeds your bid - but if your bid starts off with too high of an amount, you may price yourself out of participating in the process.
  2. Remember that your bid can focus on a piece of your total farm acreage. If you own a 200-acre farm, you may only be interested in enrolling 20 acres of your property into The Bobolink Project. Your bid, therefore, would cover only that 20-acre portion, not the entire 200 acres.
  3. In 2019, the final amount of assistance we were able to provide for our selected farmers was $50/acre. This value will likely be different every year because it is determined by the number and values of the bids we receive, the size of the fields submitted in each bid, and the total amount of donations received.
  4. There is a chance that during the auction there will be a tie between two farmers who submit the same bid and whose fields appear to be equally suitable for Bobolinks, but we cannot afford to support both farmers given the available donation pool. In this case, preference will be given to the farmer who submitted his/her bid at an earlier date.
  5. Also, in the case of a tie between two farmers who submitted the same bid, preference will be given to former Bobolink Project fields that supported Bobolinks or other grassland birds in previous years. There is no guarantee that a particular field will have nesting grassland birds, but the birds do have a high degree of nest-site fidelity, meaning that many will return to the same field they used in the prior year. Therefore, if a selected Bobolink Project field had nesting grassland birds in 2022, it is likely that the field will have nesting grassland birds in 2023.