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Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. It has been practiced in the United States and around the world for centuries.

USDA Agroforestry Strategic Framework: Fiscal Year 2019-2024

The agroforestry strategic framework (PDF, 562 KB) is a roadmap for agroforestry services USDA provides to landowners through its numerous programs. As such, it plays a critical role in advancing agroforestry to enhance the nation's economy and its agricultural landscapes, watersheds, and communities.

For a management practice to be called agroforestry, it typically must satisfy the four "i"s:

  • Intentional
  • Intensive
  • Integrated
  • Interactive

There are five widely recognized categories of agroforestry in the United States:

Agroforestry Farming Systems

Alley cropping means planting crops between rows of trees to provide income while the trees mature. The system can be designed to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, herbs, bioenergy feedstocks, and more. This type of system may also be called intercropping, when the trees and crops are not in defined rows and alleys.

Forest farming operations grow food, herbal, botanical, or decorative crops under a forest canopy that is managed to provide ideal shade levels as well as other products. Forest farming is also called multi-story cropping.

Silvopasture combines trees with livestock and forage on one piece of land. The trees may provide timber, fruit, fodder, or nuts as well as shade and shelter for livestock and their forages, reducing stress on the animals from the hot summer sun, cold winter winds, or a downpour.

Linear Agroforestry Practices

Riparian forest buffers are natural or re-stablished areas along rivers and streams made up of trees, shrubs, and grasses. These buffers can help filter farm runoff while the roots stabilize the banks of streams, rivers, lakes and ponds to prevent erosion. These areas can also support wildlife and provide another source of income.

Windbreaks shelter crops, animals, buildings, and soil from wind, snow, dust, and odors. These areas can also support wildlife and provide another source of income. They are also called shelterbelts, hedgerows, vegetated environmental buffers, or living snow fences.