People become interested in agroforestry for a wide range of reasons including improving water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat, reducing soil erosion, and increasing crop and livestock production.
Agroforestry, the intentional combination of trees with crops or livestock, is designed to support landowners’ conservation and production goals. Through U.S. Forest Service, state agency, and other technical assistance providers who work with landowners, the National Agroforestry Center works with partners to care for the land and serve people.
Agroforestry can take a lot of different forms. In Pennsylvania, private landowner Denny Colwell, is growing ginseng in the woods to steward his land, using an agroforestry practice called forest farming. Working with Penn State, Pennsylvania Certified Organic, and other technical assistance providers, he has gotten involved in the Forest Grown Verification Program, which certifies that his ginseng is produced and harvested in a sustainable and legal manner.
The Basalt Food Park was established in Basalt, Colorado to improve community well-being and build the local food network. This food forest, a system that uses perennial plants combined with annuals in a multi-story cropping design, is also intended educate children and others in the community about forest ecosystems and edible trees and shrubs.
Milton Nappier, a landowner in Nelson County, Virginia, was interested in agroforestry as a way to better steward the land where he grew up. Working with partners from Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Tech extension, and others, Nappier established a silvopasture system to manage his woods. Silvopasture carefully combines trees, forage, and livestock production. By improving the quality of the land, adding infrastructure for farming, and generating opportunities for more valuable future timber harvests, he is creating a more productive and workable asset for his children.
All of these examples show how agroforestry can serve people and care for the land. In a recent issue of National Agroforestry Center’s newsletter, Inside Agroforestry, we explored the question of Why Agroforestry? by investigating the motivations landowners, researchers, educators, and others that lead them towards agroforestry.