Agroforestry education using the collective experience of pioneer farmers

Final report for ONC18-049

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $29,984.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2020
Grant Recipient: Savanna Institute
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Kevin Wolz, PhD
Savanna Institute
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Project Information


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 partnered 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 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 priceless tools in facilitating beginning agroforestry farms in the North-Central Region.

Project Objectives:
  • 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,, and existing agroforestry education programs


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Terry Durham (Educator)
  • Greg & Jan Judy (Educator)
  • Mark Shepard (Educator)
  • Dan Shepherd (Educator)
  • Tom Wahl (Educator)
  • Harry & Jackie Hoch (Educator)


Materials and methods:


Research results and discussion:


Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 Tours
46 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days
6 Other educational activities: Maps of pioneer agroforestry farms

Participation Summary:

313 Farmers participated
182 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Nutshell Webinars

We hosted 15 online “Nutshells” (interactive webinars/discussions) with pioneer agroforestry farmers during this project. All Nutshells are archived on the Savanna Institute’s website and YouTube channel. Collectively, these 15 Nutshell videos have received over 32,000 views, and they are only a portion of a broader array of topics/videos that have been part of the Nutshells series. The Nutshell topics from the pioneer agroforestry farmers included:

This project initially had the goal of hosting 24 online Nutshell webinars with the pioneer farmers. The reduction in the final webinar count was due to several of the farmers preferring to replace their online Nutshells with in-person keynote talks at the Savanna Institute's Perennial Farm Gatherings in December 2018 and December 2019. These events had 175 and 221 attendees, respectively.


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 received over 80,000 online views. A list to the videos with links is here:


Farm Maps

The farm maps of each pioneer farm that accompany the virtual farm tour videos provide critical landscape and spatial context that cannot be understood via the videos alone.



The full-length interviews with each of the 6 pioneer farmers were edited into two formats to maximize availability to different audiences: audio-only YouTube videos and podcast-type mp3 audio files. The mp3 files were released in spring 2019, and the video versions were released in late winter 2020. These full-length interviews have been viewed/downloaded over 7,500 times.

The audio files can be found here:

The videos can be found here:


Field Days

We hosted 5 on-farm field days at pioneer agroforestry farms in 3 states during the 2019 growing season. Over 125 farmers, landowners, and agricultural educators attended the events. The only farm we were not able to schedule was New Forest Farm. The field days had two primary components. First, the farmer led the group on a farm tour and provided a deep dive into the workings of their operation. Second, ample time was scheduled for attendees to ask questions, network with each other, and discuss further opportunities with SI staff.



We created 5 infographics describing the 5 core agroforestry practices (windbreaks, alley cropping, silvopasture, riparian buffers, and forest faming) using synthesized technical and practical lens. The infographics feature complex drawings that elegantly illustrate both the landscape potential and technical characteristics of each agroforestry practice. These infographics can be found here:

The initial goal of this project was to create 10 infographics of agroforestry concepts. However, after seeing how much incredible video content came out of our farm tours and interviews with the pioneer farmers, we decided to limit our infographic effort to just 5 infographics and instead reallocate remaining staff time to create 13 additional topic-specific videos using the video content already in hand (see Additional Videos section below). The high traffic and impact we had already seen come from the first wave of videos posted from this project led us to believe that this content would have even higher impact. 


Additional Videos

The 13 additional videos that were created in this project are shown below. These videos utilize the incredible video content that we already had in hand from our farm tours and interviews with the pioneer farmers. Though most of these videos were just published in spring 2020, these 13 videos already have had over 10,000 collective views to date.



521 people participated in the in-person events spearheaded by this project. In addition, the digital content created by this project was viewed/downloaded over 130,000 times. 

Based on registration and survey responses, the Savanna Institute estimates the follow participant type percentages for viewers of our online content and attendees of in-person events: 60% Farmers; 35% Agricultural Professionals; 5% Other (e.g. students, landowners). Applying these percentages to the in-person attendees leads to the following breakdown in participants: 313 farmers; 182 agricultural professionals; 26 students, landowners, and other agricultural stakeholders .Applying these percentages to the virtual content leads to the following breakdown in views/downloads: 78,000 by farmers; 45,500 by agricultural professionals; 6,500 by students, landowners, and other agricultural stakeholders.

79% of viewers/attendees reported that the knowledge gained was “Extremely helpful” or “Very helpful”. A further 17% of viewers/attendees reported that the knowledge gained was “Moderately helpful” or “A little helpful”. Finally, just 4% of viewers/attendees reported that the knowledge gained was “Not at all helpful”.

Learning Outcomes

247 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • 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

Project Outcomes

20 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
10 Grants received that built upon this project
15 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

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.

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.