For Farmers

How to Participate

The application period for the 2018 season has ended. Thank you to all who applied. We hope to hear from you next year.

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 2019 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 10 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 10 acre farm that includes 2 acres of row crops plus farm buildings would not be considered as a potential Bobolink Project farm.


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 surroundingsIn the example to the right, farms Blue and Orange are both at the low end of The Bobolink Project's acreage requirement (11 acres and 10 acres, respectively), and the Green farm (6 acres) is too small. However, if these three farmers submitted a joint bid, totaling 27 acres, not only would Green farm be able to participate, but the bid for a 27-acre unit would increase the likelihood that farms Blue and Orange would be selected in the bidding process.

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.

Farm Selection Process—Example

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

Let's say that The Bobolink Project has received $30,000 in donations from conservation donors. There are 5 farmers (Giles, Jones, MacDonald, McGregor, and Miller) who own fields that, according to the criteria above, would be acceptable for inclusion in The Bobolink Project.

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.

Giles 25 $180 $4,500
Jones 75 $175 $13,125
MacDonald 50 $125 $6,250
McGregor 120 $200 $24,000
Miller 10 $150 $1,500

The total of all five bids is $49,375, which is $19,375 more than the $30,000 The Bobolink Project received in donations. When this happens, participating farms are then chosen through a fixed price reverse auction process.

BID 1: MacDonald—$125/acre, 50 acres

At $125/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 $23,750 to disburse.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $6,250 (MacDonald)
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $23,750 ($30,000 - $6,250)

BID 2: Miller—$150/acre, 10 acres

The Miller farm has the next lowest bid at $150/acre, and there is enough money in the donation pot to cover that farm's participation. In addition, MacDonald's low bid now automatically increases to $150/acre to match Miller's bid. The remaining donation account will still contain enough money to compensate both farms.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $7,500 (MacDonald); $1,500(Miller)
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $21,000 ($30,000 - $7,500 - $1,500)

BID 3: Jones—$175/acre, 75 acres

The next lowest bid belongs to Jone at $175/acre for 75 acres, a total potential payout of $13,125. Since lower bids are automatically adjusted to match the highest accepted bid, both MacDonald's and Miller's bids would be adjusted to $175/acre as well.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $8,750 (MacDonald); $1,750 (Miller); $13,125 (Jones)
  • APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED: MacDonald, Miller, Jones
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $6,375 ($30,000 - $8,750 - $1,750 - $13,125)

BID 4: Giles—$180/acre, 25 acres

The next lowest bid belongs to Giles at $180/acre for 25 acres, which represents a total potential payout of $4,500. By itself, this bid could be covered by the remaining project funds available ($6,375). However, accepting Giles's bid would require that the bids from MacDonald, Miller, and Jones all be increased to match the new high bid of $180/acre. Doing so would mean the total amount needed to cover all four bids is $31,000, which is more than what is available in the donation pot ($30,000).

This means that the Giles farm would not be selected for The Bobolink Project. Neither would the McGregor farm, with its high bid of $200/acre. The Jones, MacDonald, and Miller farms would all participate in The Bobolink Project.

  • BID(S) TO FUND: $9,000 (MacDonald); $1,800 (Miller); $13,500 (Jones)
  • BIDS ACCEPTED: MacDonald, Miller, Jones
  • REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $6,375 ($30,000 - $8,750 - $1,750 - $13,125)

BID 5: McGregor—$200/acre

The highest bid submitted belongs to the McGregor farm at $200/acre. Since Giles's bid of $180/acre was already rejected, McGregor's would automatically be rejected since it's an even higher amount. This means that neither the Giles farm or the McGregor farm would be selected for The Bobolink Project.


BID(S) TO FUND: $9,000 (MacDonald); $1,800 (Miller); $13,500 (Jones)
BIDS ACCEPTED: MacDonald, Miller, Jones
BIDS REJECTED: Giles, McGregor
REMAINING PROJECT FUNDS: $6,375 ($30,000 - $8,750 - $1,750 - $13,125)

Note that by submitting low bids, MacDonald and Miller both guaranteed their inclusion in the list of farms whose bids were considered for enrollment in the program. In addition, both received more money than they originally asked for—MacDonald received $8,750 instead of $6,250 while and Miller received $1,750 instead of $1,500.

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 2016, the final amount of assistance we were able to provide for our selected farmers was $75/acre. This value will likely be different every year because it is determined by the amount 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. 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 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 2017, it is likely that the field will have nesting grassland birds in 2018.