Published: February 4, 2023

Category: Regenerative Agriculture

A “forest garden,” with rows of trees and shrubs interplanted with crops? Faced with climate change’s deleterious impact on growing food, sustainability experts are looking to agroforestry.

This co-existence of trees and crops on farmland was common in earlier times. “The whole Eastern U.S. in pre-European eras had a lot of agroforestry. That was how a lot of Indigenous groups managed the landscape,” says Cathy Day of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

To the modern American farmer—used to monocropping on extensive tree-less fields—the notion of replanting trees goes against the grain. Kaitie Adams, community agroforester with the Savanna Institute in Wisconsin, understands the wariness. The Institute is working toward implementing agroforestry across Midwestern states—Iowa, Illinois, Indiana—where large-scale row crops are the norm.

Agroforestry practices include alley cropping (trees form protective alleyways for crops), silvopasture (shelter for herds), windbreaks, and riparian forest buffers. Incorporating agroforestry necessitates building up marketing and infrastructure to ensure farmers have access to [plant materials]. NSAC is pushing for federal policies advancing agroforestry.

The 2017 Farm Census found that over 30,000 farms—about 1.5% of all producers—were using some agroforestry practices. USDA’s National Agroforestry Center (NAC) hopes to share results of its own survey by Summer 2023.

Globally, the non-profit Trees for the Future has helped restore over 70,000 degraded farmland acres in sub-Saharan Africa, creating over 40,000 forest gardens—fostering soil health and sustaining farm families.

Source: Modern Farmer

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights, February 2023