USDA releases first-ever “agroforestry” guide for farms, woodlands
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agroforestry Center
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today released a first-of-its-kind practical agroforestry handbook that contains information to help establish, manage and market agroforestry projects that are profitable and sustainable over time.
The handbook, Profitable Farms and Woodlands, is written for underserved and limited resource farmers and woodland owners living in the Southeast and includes five main agroforestry practices: alley cropping, forest farming, riparian buffer strips, silvopasture and windbreaks.
“Profitable Farms and Woodlands will help landowners make good use of their land in terms of making profits but also as land stewards,” Merrigan said. “Our emphasis on agroforestry helps focus on job creation, increasing rural prosperity, support local and regional food systems, and helps to guide stewardship of working farms and forests.”
Agroforestry is a unique land management approach for farms, ranches and woodlands that intentionally combines agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems.
Among the information in the book are simple explanations of how growing medicinal plants, mushrooms or cultivating bee products can help landowners become part of a multi-billion dollar industry. In Georgia, for example, a forest farmer can grow goldenseal and earn $6,500 an acre. Or an 800-log shiitake business can reap roughly $6,000 per year.
Other information focuses on responsible landownership through the use of windbreaks and riparian buffers. Riparian buffers can help a farmer save money or even earn added income because the buffers help protect water quality, improve food and cover for wildlife and fish, and can even be designed to grow profitable products such as berries, nut crops, and timber.
Each practice in the book is brought to life through success stories, including that of Frances and Will Powers of Oconee County, Ga., who faced losing their family farm but are now successful fourth-generation farmers.
Landowner focus group sessions in Birmingham, Ala., and in Atlanta led to the development of the free handbook which is a collaborative effort of a team of agroforestry specialists from the 1890 and 1862 Land Grant Universities and the USDA National Agroforestry Center, led by the 1890 Agroforestry Consortium. The Agroforestry Center is a partnership of the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“Resource professionals and small farmers and woodland owners in the Southeast have been yearning for a practical, easy to read agroforestry handbook,” said Richard Straight, the U.S. Forest Service lead agroforester for the USDA National Agroforestry Center. “This handbook will do just that. Beginning farmers and woodland owners will find this handbook very helpful, especially the ‘Basics’ section for each of the five practices.”
Straight credits Joshua Idassi for initiating the idea for the book and for his work in the development of the finished product. Idassi is technical coordinator and a natural resources specialist at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
A limited number of hard copies of the 85-page handbook are available upon request for use in agroforestry training and landowner workshops. Contact the National Agroforestry Center for more information.