Scaling Northeastern Agroforestry using a Farmer-centered Field Consultancy Model

Progress report for LNE22-439

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $68,363.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Interlace Commons
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Meghan Giroux
Interlace Commons
Expand All

Project Information


February 15th, 2023. Work just began early this year due to plant supply issues with nothing measurable to report from 2022 other than farm recruitment has happened. The project is still on target to reach its milestones and deliverables.

Performance Target:

As a result of this project, nine landowners in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont - farming pasture, forest, and arable land - will convert 5to10 acres each (60 total acres*) from single-function landscapes to alley cropping, forest farming, or silvopasture. The anticipated benefits from each practice are listed below. While it is impossible to verify these benefits fully by the project's end, the nine farmers will be surveyed to capture expected and/or realized benefits from their perspective.**

Alley cropping: product diversification of high value, long-term crops. Silvopasture: micro-climate modification increasing the nutritive value of forages,  Forest farming: land-use intensification




Problem or Opportunity and Justification:

Private and public landowners are increasingly interested in adopting agroforestry for its multiple benefits, including positive economic and environmental outcomes, climate resilience, food security, and the enhancement of rural livelihood strategies. Although agroforestry research has been ongoing in North America for the past thirty years, minimal measurable impact on adoption has occurred. In the Technical Service Providers community, in the case of this grant, we are explicitly referencing NRCS conservation planners. The USDA is often the first point of contact for farmers; however, very few conservation planners have experience in the agroforestry practices associated with production. Support for farmers interested in alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture practices is limited partly because planners have less experience resolving how these three specific practices can address resource concerns. This issue results in conservation planners promoting these specific practices measurably less than riparian buffers and windbreaks, the two practices associated with protecting or enhancing ecosystem function.

Solution and Approach:

Interlace Commons will utilize a farmer-centered curriculum called the Field Consultancy Program to support agricultural landowners interested in designing and implementing alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture while concurrently providing agroforestry training for training NRCS conservation planners to reduce knowledge barriers preventing agroforestry promotion and technical assistance. The two-year program results in a case study including a farm narrative, site analysis, field and enterprise plans.


Involves research:
Research conclusions:

February 15th, 2023 - Nothing to report.

Participation Summary


Educational approach:




2/15/24 Update: Engagement Remains the Same. 

Farm applications will made available in 2022 and distributed directly through Interlace Commons.

This project seeks to:

  1. Engage and train nine eight farms to develop agroforestry land-use plans focused on alley cropping silvopasture and forest farming. This process will help the farms identify the alley cropping, silvopasture, or forest farming benefits, risks, yields, and best practices for establishment and management, as well as enterprise planning;
  2. Utilize land-use plans to implement alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture practices for educational and outreach purposes;
  3. Share the project’s process and results with farmers and technical service providers to reach a range of stakeholders with information about alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture and its adoption in the Northeast. This information will be helpful to stakeholders looking to enhance sustainability, address ecosystem degradation, increase profitability, and prepare for/respond to climate change and its impact on the future of farms, food, and the environment;
  4. Identify funding opportunities to support farms in designing and implementing alley cropping systems. 


Farms receive training to identify the critical biophysical constraints and existing resource participating opportunities referred to as the site analysis. Farms use the narrative and site analysis and, with guidance, develop an agroforestry field design and enterprise plan. If successful, this project will catalyze the adoption of alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture in MA, NH, and VT as a transformative solution to agriculture’s environmental and economic challenges.  We predict there will be increased interest in and an improved understanding of the three aforementioned practices; in the mid-and long-term, there will be an uptick in alley-cropping adoption on farms in Massachusetts and surrounding states.

Objective 1 Methods: 

Update 2/15/24 Objective 1 Method has not changed and continues in 2024

Use Interlace Commons’ existing Field Consultancy Program curriculum to guide the land-use planning process that includes: 

  1. The creation of a farm narrative identifying challenges, goals, and opportunities, a statement of purpose, and a description of farm enterprises; 
  2. A site assessment identifying the biophysical and economic conditions of each farm. Biophysical conditions relate to soils, water and water quality, climate, and the farm’s geographic location (i.e., distance to markets which will influence what type of crops the farmer might grow). Economic conditions include markets, infrastructure, off-farm alternatives, availability of credit and labor, and willingness to take risks; and 
  3. A field design, including a planting and implementation plan influenced by the farm narrative and site assessment documents. 

Objective 2 Methods:

Install the planting plan (s) outlined in the land-use plan using labor supplied by the two farms eight farms:

Update 2/15/24 The Objective  Method 2  is partially incorrect.  The number of farms receiving implementation assistance is eight. I think, at some point, the language was copied over from the IC Partnership Grant. I am unclear about how that happened. This portion of the work happens in the spring of 2024 between the months of April and June. 

  1. Pattern the planting site by laying out the planting lanes;
  2. Prepare land for tree planting by removing sod, tilling soil, and adding amendments; and
  3. Plant trees and/or shrubs, field crops, funghi, or forest botanicals according to the planting plan at both sites, the eight sites per the land use plan developed specifically for each farm.

Objective 3 Methods: To maximize the impact of these nine eight farm sites, we will utilize various methods, providing multiple modes of engagement.

Phase 1: Documentation: 

Update 2/15/24 Objective 3: Phase 1 -  Documentation  

  1. Develop case studies for each farm, including the design and implementation process, an abbreviated land use plan, and resulting questions, successes, and challenges. The documentation will be available on the Interlace Commons, UMASS student farm, and Simple Gifts’ on  (again, it looks like something from the SARE Partnership grant was somehow copied here) the Interlace Commons website;
  2. Create a visual depiction of the project using high-resolution before and after drone images (to be included in the case studies)

W0rk on these items continues in 2024. 

Phase 2: Dissemination: 

Update 2/15/24 Objective 3: Phase 1 -  Documentation  

  1. The farms will share their process, learning, and field design plans at a community presentation halfway through the project. This helps build momentum and interest and helps the farmers clarify their plans.  This will get bundled into the final presentation since the project started late. 
  2. Interlace Commons and the participating farms will host a Field Day in September and October 2023 in collaboration with the conservation planners.   These Field Days will be promoted via a postcard sent to farms, agricultural conservation organizations, and technical service providers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as well as through Interlace Common’s and the farms’ social media networks and word of mouth.

We are picking dates for these field days over the next month.  


Pre and post-surveys will be used to evaluate the efficacy of the learned experience. Questions related to their broad understanding of the history of agroforestry related to the aforementioned practices, site analysis, implementation planning, and enterprise planning will be outlined and assessed. Surveys will be delivered in the first quarter of 2022 and the fourth quarter of 2023.





February 15th, 2023 -Activities moved to 2023 and started in early January. 

Update 2/15/24 Work began in 2023, not 2022. 

2022 2023


  • Between August 1st and 15th, 2022, nine participating farms and conservation planners fill out a program survey identifying their understanding of agroforestry systems, landscape analysis, designing and implementing agroforestry, and enterprise planning.



  • Nine eight farmers and three conservation planners attend a webinar introducing participants and modern forms of agroforestry. The virtual presentation will occur between August 15th and August 30th, 2022.

It was completed but on-site, not via a webinar, and was executed on the individual farms. The agroforestry concepts were covered, and the specifics of the chosen practice to be installed were discussed. Site-based learning is a better way to help farms understand how agroforestry looks on their specific site under their context and conditions. Since the program included direct work with the farms in their landscape, I think it was a richer experience. This work will continue in 2024. 


  • Nine farmers (eight farms because one dropped out) learn to develop a farm narrative that identifies goals, objectives, and priorities. This document may already exist in this case; revisions are encouraged to meet the needs of the FCP. Additionally, program participants learn to identify personal resources that may prevent or encourage the adoption of the future agroforestry enterprise. Farm narrative development happens between September 1st and September 30th, 2022, and is submitted to a shared program folder. 

Completed. I hope to use ARC GIS to create a story of each farm, highlighting some of the farm narrative information and resource concerns. 

  • Nine farmers(eight farms because one dropped out)
  • farms participate in a site assessment exercise, helping them identify biophysical assets and constraints, including soil assessment, climate, and weather-related risks, and how the analysis informs their agroforestry field plan. Three conservation planners train the nine farms to identify resource concerns and the associated federal cost-share programs that can be utilized to address the projected or occurring issue.  This learning happens between October 1st and October 30th The completion of this task requires the farm to walk their land with Interlace Commons and the respective conservation planner and culminates in a completed site assessment document that Interlace Commons develops into maps. 

It was a mixed bag of results with getting conservation planners to help farms identify resource concerns.  I will review the site biophysical constraints and assets with each farm before we install the practice. . Massachusetts excelled at this, making time when we were onsite to help the farms understand if there were conservation concerns and how they might address them. All of the farms in MA were either aware of or working directly with NRCS.  Vermont's State Resource Conservationist was overcommitted but did make initial visits. In Vermont's case, Interlace Commons easily filled in the details because, as the organization with job authority in Vermont for the agroforestry practice codes, Interlace Commons already works with farms to identify conservation concerns, pairing them with the appropriate practice in our case. 

  • Nine farms (eight farms because one dropped out) and three conservation planners are introduced to the agroforestry systems (alley cropping, forest farming, or silvopasture) and associated practices and typologies the participating farms identified for development. Additionally, farms receive training to develop a concept agroforestry field plan. This learning happens between November 1st and November 30th. Nine farms complete a program template that assesses their understanding of how agroforestry can impact landscape sustainability, enhance their livelihood strategy, and the risks and trade-offs when land-use intensification occurs. They submit a concept plan by November 30th.  

We started with Bill Fosher in NRCD in New Hampshire. He left the agency and went to American Farmland Trust. He was replaced by Sarah McGraw, who left the agency and went to NRCS. He was replaced by Zoe Eisenpress, who informed me that our position was terminated due to a lack of funding. We've worked with Joe Buford, the State Resource Conservationist, and Stephanie Vasilopoulous in Vermont. In Massachusetts, we've had an engaged staff working with us in Kate Parsons, Rose Schwartz, and State Resource Conservationist Catherine Magee. This work will continue in 2024


2023  2024

  • Nine farms (eight because one dropped out) learned to develop a field plan with associated planting and enterprise plans. Items related to the learning are submitted for review between January 1st and February 15th.
  • Purchase orders submitted to the shared folder between February 15th  and February 28th, 2023

The plant materials necessary for our project, particularly forest medicinals, are in short supply. In some cases, we may not be able to install the practice. I'll keep SARE posted. We have ordered what we can and continue looking for the remaining plant materials. 



  • The participating nine farmers receive training between March 1st and March 28th to use the FCP PowerPoint template for community presentations, bringing together the farm narrative, site assessment, field, implementation, and enterprise plan. Each farm completes its presentation by March 28th.

This type of engagement will get bundled into a field day presentation and likely won't include electronic presentations.  This work continues in 2024. 

  • Using the farm’s developed implementation plans, the nine (eight farms because one dropped out) farm participants and three conservation planners learn how to prepare a site for planting, what tools and machinery are appropriate at different scales, and what auxiliary items are needed to reduce mortality and sustain plant health.  This learning happens between August 1st and August 31st

We've decided this will work best in the field before planting. 



  • Supported by Interlace Commons, the participating nine farms installed their implementation plan between April 15th and June 30th, 2024.

Fingers crossed, we'll install eight sights - three forest farming, two alley cropping, and three silvopastoral practices. 


  • The participating nine farms present their project during a Field Day; conservation planners teach event participants how to work with the USDA, what programs exist to support farms interested in agroforestry, and how to match identified resource concerns to AMA, EQUIP, and CSP programs. These field days happen between July 1st through September 15th. October 30th. 

Still to come.. 


  • Participating farms and conservation planners fill out a program survey identifying their understanding of agroforestry systems, landscape analysis, designing and implementing agroforestry, and enterprise planning. Deadline October 30th.

Still to come.. 

Learning Outcomes

8 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
5 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes as a result of their participation

Performance Target Outcomes

Target #1

Target: change/adoption:

No change at this point.

Target: amount of production affected:

No amount of production will be affected by the change or adoption at this point.

Target: quantified benefit(s):

No measurable benefits that will result from the change or adoption at this point in the project.

Actual: change/adoption:

No change or adoption these farmers made.

Actual: amount of production affected:

No amount of production was affected by the change or adoption at this point.

Actual: quantified benefit(s):

No measurable benefits resulted from the change or adoption at this point.

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

No performance target verification methods and tools at this point.

Additional Project Outcomes

4 New working collaborations
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.