Agroforestry is a sustainable agricultural paradigm that integrates trees with crops and/or livestock. Agroforestry practices can be highly profitable while simultaneously restoring critical ecosystem services degraded by conventional agriculture. Although agroforestry has not yet been widely adopted across the North-Central Region, a collection of pioneer farmers established their farms decades ago, well ahead of the curve. Collectively, these pioneers host a wealth of knowledge gained through experience – both success and failure.
These pioneers are dispersed across the North Central Region, making it difficult for beginning farmers to learn from them in person. Furthermore, the pioneers often traverse different networks and markets than beginning farmers. Thus, the collective experience of these pioneers has been underutilized in educating beginning agroforestry farmers.
In this project, the Savanna Institute is partnering with six pioneer agroforestry farmers to document, synthesize, and disseminate over 183 years of collective experience via: online interactive discussions, virtual farm tours, podcast interviews, on-farm field days, and creative infographics of abstract agroforestry concepts. This range of methods maximizes the educational impact across the diverse ages, backgrounds, and learning styles of beginning farmers. The resulting educational materials are be priceless tools in facilitating beginning agroforestry farms in the North-Central Region.
- Host 24 online interactive discussions between beginning and pioneer farmers
- Create a virtual farm tour for each of the 6 pioneer farms
- Compile a podcast interview of each of the 6 pioneers
- Host 6 on-farm field days at pioneer farms
- Synthesize abstract agroforestry concepts into creative infographics that merge scientific knowledge with farmer experience
- Disseminate educational materials to over 4,500 perennial farmers via org, PerennialMap.org, and existing agroforestry education programs
Educational & Outreach Activities
We have hosted around half of our targeted 24 online “Nutshells” (interactive webinars/discussions) with pioneer agroforestry farmers. All Nutshells are archived on the Savanna Institute’s website and YouTube channel. Each pioneer farmer is slated to lead another 1-2 Nutshells during 2019. Nutshell topics to date have been the following:
In total, the pioneer Nutshells were viewed by 603 live attendees and 11,486 viewers of the hosted recordings. In addition, pioneer farmers Harry Hoch & Greg Judy opted to replace one of their online Nutshells with in-person keynote talks at the Savanna Institute’s Perennial Farm Gathering in December 2018.
Virtual Farm Tour Videos
Virtual farm tour videos for each of the 6 pioneer farms were recorded during the 2018 growing season and published over fall and winter 2018. All videos are archived on the Savanna Institute’s website and YouTube channel. To date, the videos have so far received 78,222 online views. A list to the videos with links is here:
IN PROGRESS ACTIVITIES
Farm Maps – The farm maps of each pioneer farm that will accompany the virtual farm tour videos are almost complete and should be released in early spring.
Podcasts – We are currently compiling and editing the podcast interviews of each of the 6 pioneer farmers. These should be released in early spring.
Field Days – We are currently scheduling the 6 on-farm field days to be hosted at pioneer farms in 2019.
Infographics – We are currently finalizing the 10 infographics of abstract agroforestry concepts that merge scientific knowledge with farmer experience. These should be released in early spring.
Based on registration and survey responses, the Savanna Institute estimates the follow participant type percentages for viewers of our online content:
60% Farmers; 35% Agricultural Professionals; 5% Other (e.g. students, landowners)
Assuming 80% of the farm tour video viewers were members of the general public, that means:
603 live Nutshell attendees + 11,486 recorded Nutshell viewers + 66,133*20% pioneer video viewers= 25,316 total engaged agricultural viewers
Applying the percentages above, leads to the following breakdown estimates:
15,190 farmers; 8,860 agricultural professionals; 1,266 students, landowners, and other agricultural stakeholders
79% of Nutshells attendees reported that the knowledge gained was “Extremely helpful” or “Very helpful”. A further 17% of Nutshell attendees reported that the knowledge gained was “Moderately helpful” or “A little helpful”. Finally, just 4% of Nutshell attendees reported that the knowledge gained was “Not at all helpful”.
Given the 60% of Nutshell attendees that were estimated to be farmers, and the 79% that were Extremely or Very satisfied, that means that 285 farmers reported gaining knowledge or skills from live attendance at the Nutshell webinars. If this same pattern is projected to viewers of the recorded Nutshells, then a further 5,444 farmers likely also gained knowledge as a result of the pioneer Nutshell webinars.
Designing a Silvopasture Polyculture for Hogs
Harvest Processing and Marketing Pecans
Commercial Chestnut Production
Turning Waste into Gold: Brush Chopping for Agroforestry
Large-scale Alley Cropping with Pecans
Establishing Silvopasture from Unmanaged Timbered Areas
23+ Years of Agroforestry Lessons
Profitable Tree Crops
Growing Elderberry for Health and Profit
The combination of on-farm field days, Nutshells, Pioneer Farmer Videos, and Infographics allows the Savanna Institute to engage a greater number and diversity of farmers that are either agroforestry practitioners or are interested in agroforestry. Knowledge and awareness is a critical step in the implementation process. In addition, these educational programs focus on empowering pioneer farmers by providing them with appropriate platform to share the wealth of knowledge they’ve acquired through years of practice, trial and error, and innovation. Building social networks and the subsequent pathways for knowledge exchange is what farmers need to both more effectively adopt agroforestry practices and address challenges that arise in the process. Through this project, the Savanna Institute has increased regional capacity to build and sustain agroforestry systems across the North Central Region. In each of the project components, we and the farmers we work with demonstrate the economic feasibility and profitability of perennial crop production, the ecosystem services agroforestry systems provide, and the abundance of social benefits, including increased land value, recreational opportunities, and food security for the farm family, local community, and the greater region.