Building Community Capacity to Increase Agroforestry Tree Planting through Participatory Listening Sessions, Training, and Peer-to-Peer Networks

Progress report for LNE23-466

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $248,180.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Wellspring Forest Farm LLC
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Steve and Elizabeth Gabriel
Wellspring Forest Farm LLC
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Project Information


Problem or Opportunity and Justification:

Tree planting in agroforestry systems offers well documented solutions to farms from moderating microclimates to increasing soil health and carbon storage. Tree planting is more complex than it might at first seem. Large scale tree planting efforts are frequently unsuccessful due to institutional ineffectiveness, a uniform view of the landscape, and the lack of inclusion of diverse stakeholders. For agroforestry efforts to sustain and thrive in the region, peer networks of tree planting farmers need to be built so that there is a support system for knowledge and cross-cultural exchange. What is needed is a shift away from just tree planting alone, and toward planting as social action.


The Project team's personal encounters with dozens of farmers and a recent survey of 120 demonstrates that farmers in the Northeast, notably NY, PA, and MA, want to and are planting trees and are interested in planting more. Survey respondents are engaged in a diverse set of enterprises: livestock (over 50%), vegetables (41%), wood products (25.1%). They produce at all scales, with 52.2% under $10k annually, 19.1% at $10,001 - $25k, and 28.4% over $25k. There is clearly interest amongst a range of scales, enterprise type, and location. 75.2% want to plant more trees but only 29.9% feel confident about how. Of proposed activities, farmers rated as “somewhat or very helpful” all of the following: Expert support with mapping and planning (86%), hands on training and skill building (81%), video and print resources/online courses (79.1%). 


Solution and Approach:

Solutions to the challenges of tree planting need to be grounded and arise from the communities and individuals tending the land in a given bioregion. This project is fundamentally grounded in people and place, developing materials and training in response to the expressed needs of farmers and developing a peer-to-peer network of farmers committed to tree planting. 


Activities include a series of eight facilitated listening sessions to identify farmer perceptions of trees and needs for trees, species of interest, and the support needed to be successful. A public report will share findings and provide guidance for policymakers and others in the agroforestry field. Findings will inform the development of a new curriculum based in the practice of popular education. Over 100 farmers will convene online, in-person, and at the demonstration nursery to learn skills and connect with peers. 20 farms will receive expert feedback on planting plans and receive cost-share support for planting. A demonstration nursery will be built and documented with video and print resources so others can replicate elements to increase tree planting capacity on farms. 

Performance Target:

20 diversified production farms (veggie, livestock, other) develop a robust planting plan and plant 5,000 trees on 100 acres. 15 report reduced tree planting costs of $1,000 or more as a result of increased knowledge and acquired skills.


Agroforestry tree planting is gaining great interest and available funding is increasing for tree planting on farms. Yet, established and new tree planting programs are potentially repeating mistakes from the past, focused on one-time infusions of money into tree planting projects that focus on the end of trees planted out in the field, often with low survival rates. Out project aims to build community capacity for agroforestry tree planting by engaging in listening sessions with farmers and small ecological tree nurseries to understand the components needed for capacity building. This will inform curricula and online and in person trainings to increase tree propagation and planting skills among farmer groups. Research to determine if fungi can be enhanced  in nursery propagation of trees will provide further solutions to improve tree health prior to field planting. In the end, we plan to demonstrate that a tree nursery is fertile ground for community capacity building, skill building, and developing locally appropriate tree stock that provides the capacity for tree planting actions in a place for decades to come. 


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Jonathan McRay (Educator)
  • Rafter Ferguson (Educator and Researcher)



Our research questions are: 

What is the cost effectiveness of adding commercially available mycorrhizal fungi to tree potting mix? 

Does on-farm cultivation of Indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) to tree seedling soil mixes offer a low cost option that increases microbial diversity in tree potting mix?

Does either adding commercial products or IMOs to tree potting mix improve the initial vertical growth and root structure in nursery conditions? 

Does adding commercial products or IMOs to tree potting mix improve vertical growth and tree survival in field conditions? 

Materials and methods:


It is well established in literature that trees need fungi to thrive in forests (Simard 2004), yet tree nursery and planting efforts rarely emphasize this essential element in their approaches to tree propagation and transplanting into field conditions, which often lack fungal communities. This is likely due to a general lack of awareness of fungi dynamics by farmers and tree planters (only recently emergent in soil science) as well as few options to economically incorporate fungi into plantings.

Commercial products are available, but the quality and composition of many are unknown and cost can be a barrier for incorporating them. Indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) are a group of living organisms that are a mix of hyper localized bacteria and fungi that inhabit the soil. IMOs have the potential to be a prime source of not only fungi but a diverse community of microbes locally adapted and may be a cost effective way for farms to bring the element to increase tree planting success.

This research contributes to the project by providing knowledge about the concept of fungal additives in tree planting, and then testing the concept to see if there are measurable benefits. If proposed methods to increase initial shoot and root growth in trees proved effective, it would mean for an investment the success rate of plantings could increase. If no beneficial effects are observed, it results in a cost savings by reducing unnecessary inputs. With either outcome, this research directly affects a critical question that affects decision making around expenses for tree planting. Participants in our workshops will get to assist in experimental set up and data collection, further enhancing the benefits of this research.



A uniform tree potting mix developed on farm will be treated in four ways: 

1) no added biology 

2) a reputable commercial mycorrhizal products 


3) a locally harvested IMO culture 


These mixtures will be used to plant three tree species: 

1) black locust  2) black willow, and 3) hybrid chestnut

Each treatment combining potting medium and species will be replicated 6 times, for a total of 81 pots. 


3 tree species

3 replicates 

3 treatments

3 sampling events

= 81 total trees in research / 27 per species



1. Harvest and Amplify local IMOs: In Spring, 2023, identify one site within farm boundary, and one local site with older forests/trees. We will construct harvest containers as outlined in literature for collecting IMO cultures. Each box is filled with three inches of steamed rice, and covered. The boxes are partially buried about 2 inches in the soil. They are left undisturbed for 4 - 7 days and then checked for healthy cultures.


Cultures initially harvested are expanded by adding cultures to a terracotta pot and mixing the rice cultures with a 1:1 ratio of brown sugar by weight. The pot is filled about ⅔ of the volume and then covered and left in a cool area away from direct sunlight for 7 days, allowing the mixture to ferment. 


This mixture is laid out on a soil surface and covered with straw for anothern 7 - 10 days, being examined periodically for white growth and monitores with a composting thermometer so as not to exceed 122°F (50°C). The mixture is turned 3 - 4 times during this process and when the internal temperature has stabilized the mixture is complete. 


2. Acquire mycorrhizal product, prepare potting mixes 

Two generally reputable mycorrhizal products will be procured that are designed for mixing into potting mix. In May 2023, once the IMO expansion and fermentation process outlined above is complete, the aggregated culture will be applied to a uniform potting mix alongside the two commercial products and a “bare” mix. Each mixture will fill pots for three species of trees (black locust, chestnut, willow) in one gallon pots. Each pot will be labeled with a letter and number code and spaced so that record keeping is consistent in a location with the same light quality.


3. Measure monthly growth in containers 

For the first season, monthly measurements for each treatment will occur and be recorded along with the unique identifier code. All pots will be watered as needed to maintain moisture at the same time duration per pot. Soil samples will be collected in May / August / October for biology analysis.


4. Plant trees in Fall, measure root mass

Trees will be removed from pots in the Fall of 2023 and the root mass will be measured in length and width and weight without soil, with each sample getting a photograph. Each tree will be tagged with a metal tag with a unique identifier. Trees will be transplanted into a prepped site at 6 foot spacing with a soil furrow and mulched with wood chips. 


Treatments will be randomized so each tree is placed within the same row, but treatments are in a random order. Seedlings will be fenced with a 3D electric fence for deer protection and receive a tube around the base to prevent vole damage. 


5. Tree growth measured in 2024 and 2025

During the months of June - September in two subsequent seasons, one measurement of each tree shoot and trunk caliper will be recorded one time monthly with unique identifier code. Soil samples will be collected in May / August / October for biology analysis.




To determine the costs associated with each method, we will track time, labor, material costs associated with the commercial vs IMO vs control treatments throughout.


Tree shoot growth will be measured monthly in pots from June - October in 2023. Root development will be measured with length, width, and weight at transplanting Fall 2023. As trees grow in field conditions, shoot growth will be measured monthly June - October in 2024 and 2025. Finally, we will collect the overall height and tree survival rates after 1 year and 2 years in the ground.


We will also attempt to observe soil microbial activity at several stages in the process, to see if any “field ready” methods prove useful. Using a 40x - 1000x digital microscope we will conduct a field analysis of the specimens and document any observations that are achievable after the soil potting mix is first created, then with a random sampling from each treatment in pots at 1, 3, and 5 months. Finally, soil will be sampled during the transplanting process and then every other month in field planted conditions in 2024 and 2025. 


With each of these sampling events (in pots, at transplant, in field) we will submit a sample from each treatment to the Soil Foodweb New York lab for a soil assay of total and active bacteria and fungi content. (three samples x twelve treatments = 36 samples)


For analysis, time and material cost logs will be transferred to excel spreadsheets for comparison purposes. All growth measurements will be graphed and we will conduct statistical analysis using JMP to identify significant differences in various measures.


Photographs and short videos of the process and microscope analysis will help describe any discoveries from the process and contribute to the sharing of results.


Research results and discussion:

2023 Update

Because of the timing needed to initiate a trial with compounding factors, we spent 2023 stepping back and learning more about IMO preparations and the potential to do analysis that would potentially yield better results before starting the process. We consulted with several scientists and researchers and conducted literature review (in draft form) that will be part of our final write up to better determine methods that could be achieved within the stated budget and timeframe. 

The major issues identified with the planned research this year were:

1) Impracticality of analyzing soil samples to determine the diversity and presence of fungal symbionts. Soil sampling was determined to be too expensive for the budget we had allocated, and does not provide a method other farmers could adopt, which is essential to our goals. Instead, we will utilize root tip microscopy methods to assess fungi presence and changes over time. This requires we switch from seeds as originally planned to established seedlings with extensive root growth. 

2) The rapid transition from potted plants to field planting meant a harder and less useful set of data, moving too fast as trees take time to grow. Instead of this transition, we will focus on growing seedlings in the nursery and conducting assessment there. This also reduces compounding effects as the plants can be maintained in a consistent set of environmental conditions. 

3) Assumptions about the process need to be studied before applying them to a set of treatments to see the effect on root and shoot growth. IMO culturing is a new practice for us, and it may provide unexpected challenges along the way. Root tip microscopy is an established practice, but has not been applied in this way, so a clear protocol needs to be developed. 

We are still able to answer three of the research questions posed above, but will eliminate the field question.


Our plan for the coming year is:


A) Test Root Tip analysis as a process for analyzing fungi presence and diversity on tree seedlings, also measure shoot growth monthly.

Test the process on several tree root samples using root tip and full root samples and staining with KOH/Vinegar/HCl mixtures to determine most effective practice. Develop and write up clear protocols for staining, preservation of samples. Test the photo-microscope to ensure it can capture data adequately. 

Purchase 27 bare-root seedlings of each tree species (bl locust / black willow / chestnut) with well established root systems. Group each species into three subgroups of 9 trees. Conduct a baseline assessment of 3 randomly selected trees from each group at arrival for mycorrhizal colonization using microscopy and document the process using photo documentation and observational notes. 

Identify three local sites to harvest forest soil from and collect IMO cultures that have established trees of the chosen species. 

(mid-April) Plant the seedlings in three treatments in closed air-prune beds to create homogony in the soils. For each species, one bed is constructed at 6’x4’x20” and holds nine trees. One bed per treatment, a total of nine beds. Treatments are 100% sterile soil, sterile soil with commercial mycorrhizal inoculum, 50/50 sterile soil and forest-harvested soil

(early June) Wait 6-8 weeks for colonization, do an initial assessment of presence and abundance on three replicates of each species (27 samples

(early August) 6-8 weeks later, repeat assessment of presence and abundance on three replicates of each species (27 samples)

(early October) 6-8 weeks later, repeat assessment of presence and abundance on three replicates of each species (27 samples


At each interval above, initiate a collection of IMOs at each sample site and test process of IMO 1-4:

1: Partially cooked grain (brown rice) in a cedar box with mesh lid, cover and partially bury in healthy forest soil The box is left for ten days

2: Inoculated material is mixed with brown sugar at 1:1 ratio, fill crock 2⁄3 full and cover, leave for one week

3: Some of the IMO #2 is liquefied and mixed into a pile of bran. The bran is piled on the earth in partial shade in the forest. Pile is hydrated to about 65 percent moisture, covered with wet leaves, straw or cardboard and needs to be protected from excessive rain for two weeks. 

4: IMO 4 Mixed with soil/compost at 1:1 ratio, left for 2 weeks. Then used as potting mix for seeds of black locust / chestnut as initial assessment of any effect on initial germination and growth; 2 species x 9 replications x 3 treatments same as above. Germination and initial shoot growth is measured.

Participation Summary


Educational approach:



Relationship building and participatory learning frameworks inform our approaches, where critical reflection, analysis and collective action are emphasized.  Participants are supported by a robust project team, hired facilitators, and their peers to ask questions, engage with troubleshooting, and provide feedback and contribute to sustained involvement.


Project approaches support the realities of busy farmers as they progress from listening to education to implementation while building peer-to-peer connections that increase social capital and farmer confidence to provide support with challenges and maintain engagement.  


The project is introduced through a free article and webinar series based at, marketing to the 120 survey respondents, listservs, and the networks of key participants, partners, and committee members. 


Eight three-hour Listening Sessions are designed considering unique needs of diverse groups (i.e. Black farmers, dairy farmers, Indigenous land stewards). Through shared dialogue they center and value farmer perspectives, encourage connection, and build trust and interest in future project activities. 



To increase access, 2 of the 3 learning approaches are open to enrollment at any point to anyone identifying as a farmer, even if they do not own and operate their own land or farm business, while the 3rd is a cohort for participants who meet the USDA definition.  A draft curriculum is attached, subject to adjustments. All content is delivered using the “spiral model” from popular education.


1. The Online Course on Teachable provides a platform for education during the off season supporting farmers to develop a tree planting plan. With access to live webinars, recorded and accessible anytime, participants develop a planting plan with four components: 1) site assessment 2) tree layout 3) site prep/planting/maintenance plan 4) budget. Break-outs, forums and tutorials using Google Earth, SimpleDraw and our tree planting calculator, provide multiple methods to learn, share and conceptualize a plan.  

2. Field-Based Workshops held at regional sites and our demonstration nursery emphasize skill-sharing. Portions of workshops are documented by video so participants who cannot attend can view online.

3. 20 farmers demonstrating engagement in approaches 1 and 2 can apply to the Technical Assistance Cohort (TA) to implement their planting plan. In exchange for tracking labor and material costs, this small peer-to-peer group receives direct technical support and cost-share support of $5/tree.


The table summarizes the elements of learning emphasized through our approaches.






Tree biology, resprout, coppice, pollard, tree species profiles

Forest ecology, seed dispersal, survival 

Mycorrhizal fungal relations, site microclimate impacts on tree placement

Site prep, soil decompaction

Fall vs Spring planting

Connections between ecological and social relationships

Personal goals for tree planting

Habits that limit personal success

Indigenous history of agroforestry and land

Privilege of secure land tenure and rematriation

Everyone has something to teach and learn, always

Farmer-to-farmer cooperation leads to increased success

Assessing tree seedling health/site mapping/Soil testing  

Propagating seeds and cuttings

Nursery structures (pots, air prune, etc).

Budgeting and tracking costs

Proper planting (tool use, holes, protection, mulching, water)

Attentive curious conversation and listening

Tree planting is a long-term vision

Local genetics are important 

Right tree, right place, right time 

Some trees will die along the way!

Plant ecosystems, not trees

Lessons from diverse people and lands essential to success





As farmer’s engage in the webinar and workshops they complete a short questionnaire (Part A) and knowledge/skills assessment (Part B) that serve as the verification tool for the performance target. Upon exit from the project, the participant is asked to complete Part B again and report on their achievements (see attachment). Knowledge change, skills acquired and confidence level is measured by the comparison of their intake/exit submissions.


The 20 farmer participants in the TA cohort are expected to keep detailed records of their time, material costs and support from peers and project team and a full tree planting plan including 1) site assessment 2) tree layout 3) site prep/planting/maintenance plan and 4) budget cost estimate/calculator updated with actuals (attached) and document their planting process with photo/video. At the end of installation, cost actuals will be entered into the estimate spreadsheet and compared.  Exit interviews are conducted with each cohort member to collect qualitative feedback and insights. 


In addition to these quantitative verification tools, Two field days are held in year three at two farms from the TA cohort to support social and qualitative project components. A farm tour, share-out of lessons learned, and “Open Space” technology enables the group to self determine activities topics for discussion and activities (Owen, 2008).  



Milestone 1: Press Release, Article, and Webinar Series


350 farmers and service providers receive an announcement of the project, visit a website with articles and attend two free webinars, verified by website traffic, mailing list sign up, and webinar attendance/ YouTube views.

Proposed completion date: May 1, 2023

Status: COMPLETED as of 1/24/2024
Accomplishments: Initial press release was send to email list (3,000+) with 12% clicks (360 people), listervs, and posted to newly launched website with sign up form (105 responses). Webinars presented at Perennial Farm Gathering 2024 (80 participants), University of Missouri Agroforestry Symposium (100 live, 200 virtual attendees). YouTube channel had 27,912 views and 551 new subscribers in 2023. 


Milestone 2: Listening Sessions Held with Farmer Groups


80 farmers participate in eight listening sessions with targeted audiences (producer type, demographic group) as well as open-ended sessions and provide input on their previous tree planting efforts, interest and perceptions of trees, species of interest, and how support can enable them to succeed. 

Proposed completion date: November 1, 2023 (new proposed date: December 31, 2024)

Accomplishments: Listening and developing this aspect of the project has taken more time than originally anticipated. As of 1/20/2024 we have held two listening sessions (with 8 Handsome Brook Farmers and 50 farmer participants at NOFA-NY conference). More time than anticipated was required to design sessions and engage in relationship building. We currently have at least six sessions in various stages of planning, to be held in 2024. We also are engaging in one-on-one interviews with ecological nursery owners (10 - 15) in Jan-March 2024 as part of this miletone, an identified group that needed to be included in a meaningful report. Outputs include an intake survey to collect quantitative data, facilitation outlines and activities for sessions. Additional partners we are engaging in future listening sessions include Catskill Agrarian Alliance, The Learning Farm, Futuro en Ag - Cornell Small Farms, and Center for Native People's and the Environment (SUNY ESF)


Milestone 3: Report on Needs for Tree Planting 


Project Team completes a summary report and presents as a public document online, press release and webinar includes sharing from participants, with 100 farmers accessing the webpage, live zoom, and YouTube recording. Farmers are invited to submit additional comments that are incorporated into a final version to capture their voices, with 50 additional farmers offering feedback. 

Proposed completion date: February 1, 2024 (new proposed date: February 1, 2025)

Accomplishments: Because the listening sessions are proving longer in their development and implementation (we are moving at the speed of human trusting relationships), we are delayed on the development of this report. Rafter Ferguson did an analysis of the initial survey data from the grant proposal to assess trends and also learn how questions could be better asked in the listening session survey to generate more accurate and useful data. This resulted in a more robust survey to improve data for the report. 


Milestone 4: Curriculum Development and Feedback


Project team refines draft curriculum for online and hands-on workshops using planning forms, activity guides, and developing handouts and educational tools. 5 farmers are compensated to review the initial draft and provide feedback before the final edition is published. 

Proposed completion date: January 1, 2024 (new proposed date: October 1, 2024)

Accomplishments: Because the listening sessions are proving longer in their development and implementation, we want to delay finalizing curriculum until we have more information. In the meantime, we have begun to assess the outline originally submitted to the grant, made updates to that, and developed a draft matrix of content and skills essential to tree propagation and planting in a spreadsheet,  with links to additional supporting resources. After listening sessions are completed we can apply this matrix to develop curriculum for online and in person learning events. 


Milestone 5: Online Course is delivered 


Up to 100 farmers from the Northeast participate in an 8 week online class with 20 hours of instruction and guest presenters. Participants attend live sessions, complete follow up reading and video assignments, and work on developing a tree planting plan for their site.

Proposed completion date: March 1, 2024 (new proposed date: march 1, 2025)

Accomplishments: Because the listening sessions are delayed, we also decided as a team to delay this to Fall-Winter of 2024 - 2025. We are changing from Teachable as a platform to Circle for better access. We are opening a public forum on this platform to being discussions and hold more informal online learning events in 2024, in preparation for a cohort taking a full course in 2024.


Milestone 6: Demonstration Nursery is designed and developed 


Nursery elements are planned at the two sites (Wellspring Farm and Mike DeMunn’s forest) and implemented beginning with site prep and deer fencing. 60 farmer participants in workshops learn while constructing elements of the site. 200 farmers view 8 YouTube videos of nursery elements and their construction. Research begins on site in Spring 2023 and continues throughout the project. 

Proposed completion date: November 1, 2024

Accomplishments: Several elements of these spaces are well underway, with the focus of 2023 on initial planning, site prep, and soil development. Deer Fence has been installed at Wellspring Forest Farm and Mike DeMunn's forest. Bed prep was initiated at both sites, with BCS tilling/bed prep, cover cropping. Woodland areas at Wellspring were cleared for additional bed development, along with space inside the field greenhouse for bottom heat cuttings and field beds were tarped for development in Spring 2023. We are documenting the process and steps for curriculum and future online and field learning events. 

Design for Mike DeMunn's nursery
Design for Mike DeMunn's nursery
Wellspring Nursery development. Deer fence is white line.
Wellspring Nursery development. Deer fence is white line.
bed prep @ Mike Demunn's
bed prep @ Mike Demunn's
Bottom heat cuttings @ Wellspring
Bottom heat cuttings @ Wellspring


Milestone 7: In-person Skill Building Events at partner farms and demonstration nursery


60 farmers participate in satellite “Tree Planting Toolkit” workshops at three geographically distributed sites in the region at 3 partner farms to build skills around tree planting. 40 farmers participate in hands-on workshops at the demo nursery  in Mecklenburg, NY focused on building on-farm nursery infrastructure for on site tree propagation.

Proposed completion date: December 1, 2024

Accomplishments: Due to the aformentioned delays, we are assessing the timing for holding in person workshops. Likely, we will pilot one or two this year and redesign based on feedback for future offerings. 


Milestone 8: 20 Farmers form Technical Assistance Cohort


From the initial pool of participants who complete online training and attended at least one in person event and a full tree planting plan, 20 applications will be accepted for additional support for implementation from September 1, - November 1, 2024. Selections by advisory team and project leaders will select farms who are most ready to implement and represent a wide sample of how trees are being incorporated in various enterprise types and farm scales. Selected farmers form a peer-to-peer group that meets monthly from November 2024 through March 2025 to review and support planning in preparation for planting in Spring 2025.


Proposed completion date: April 1, 2025

Accomplishments: N/A


Milestone 9: Implementation Support for Tree Planting 


15 farms implement tree planting plans on their land. Project leadership ensures at least one person attends planting events in Spring 2025, offering support via technical assistance and documenting the planting activities. The grant budget provisions to cost share each tree planted at $5/tree planted. In total, 5,000 trees are planted across 15 farms and documented with video and photos. 

Proposed completion date: July 1, 2025

Accomplishments: N/A


Milestone 10: Verification of target, farmer exit interviews


For each successfully planted farm, actual costs are compared with estimates in budgeting workbook. Farmers meet with project leadership (Steve/Elizabeth) to review budget workbook. Knowledge/skill worksheets are compared to determine verification of performance target. 90 minute exit interviews with farmers and project leadership capture quantitative feedback from participating farms.

Proposed completion date: November 1, 2025

Accomplishments: N/A


Milestone 11: Curriculum, case study, project resources published to


Throughout the project, materials and updates are posted as completed to the website. By project term, 300 farmers visit the site, verified by intake form and mailing list prompt when entering. Website endures as a hub for supporting farmers interested in tree planting. 

Proposed completion date: November 1, 2025

Accomplishments: Currently, a project overview, published articles, and a sign up for are posted to We will continue to build out materials here and at the circle site as the project develops. 


Milestone 12: Field Day Roundtables


At the end of each season (2024, 2025) an open invite will be sent to the list of participating farms to join a day-long roundtable and farm tour, to be hosted at one of the farmer partners willing to host. Topics will be self determined by the assembled group, with a goal of 30 farmers attending each event for a total of 70 unique farmers over the duration of the grant. Events are partly social, low intensity gatherings with farm tour, open discussion, and sharing out of the project progress. Participants will be encouraged to share information or skills they have expertise in.


Proposed completion date: December 1, 2025

Accomplishments: N/A 

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities:

2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
3 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

280 Farmers participated
150 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Performance Target Outcomes

Target #1

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

Too early to reach this target. We are building!

Additional Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
Additional Outcomes:

The most significant outcome in the project thus far is a reframing of some of our central assumptions and approach and the way that is resonating and being explored by many others in the agroforestry community. In essence, we want to avoid perpetuating the mistakes of previous tree planting initiatives, especially in the farming context where one-time cash infusions are offered to individual farms to plant trees (they don't always cover the true cost of this) but rarely to maintain them. Tree planting is a decades and lifetime long process. Rather than scattershot approaches that isolate individual farms, what has become clear is the need to build community capacity in local regions where connected networks of farmers offer and build alongside each other the knowledge, skills, and infrastructure (i.e. nurseries) to engaging in tree planting for the long term.

The offer of listening sessions for farmers and nursery producers has been welcomed and of great interest to the wider community, and we see the process as a template for ongoing long term work to help build this capacity. Listening is both important to help farmers articulate what priorities and needs arise for them, and also to build community. Because locales are each unique in their composition, there are a wide range of ways this will play out, and so the listening sessions and what follows (curricula, training, funding support) in this project must be well designed as flexible, adaptive, and iterative to remain responsive to unique situations. 

Information Products

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.