Growing Seedlings and Skills for Agroforestry: Integration of woody seedling and annual vegetable production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $8,988.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Kelly's Working Well Farm
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Jessica Burns
Kelly's Working Well Farm


  • Fruits: paw-paws
  • Nuts: chestnuts
  • Vegetables: beans
  • Additional Plants: Flowers (zinnias, tithonia)


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, intercropping, nurseries
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, permaculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil microbiology
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Agroforestry systems have the potential to increase both food production and environmental quality, mitigating challenges generated by climate change and land degradation.  Can agroforestry practices be applied to nursery production to increase income and ecological benefits? This project will grow a nursery at Kelly’s Working Well Farm focused on research and education around agroforestry.  We will examine whether raising tree seedlings in polyculture nursery beds affects their growth and vigor. We will focus on chestnut, pawpaw, and elderberry, three woody species with potential in our ecoregion, the Erie-Ontario Lake Plains.  Seedlings will be grown both in monoculture and polyculture with familiar herbs and vegetables. Intercropping annual crops and woody seedlings in nursery production could provide income while seedlings grow to saleable size, and foster mutualistic ecosystem benefits.  After two growing seasons we will measure seedling top growth and root systems, and conduct soil tests and microbial assays to examine differences between the monoculture and polyculture plantings. We will observe the success of the intercropped annuals and track amounts harvested.  A series of workshops targeted at small-acreage landowners and beginning farmers will exhibit our research and teach propagation and planting skills to advance adoption of agroforestry.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Assess the viability of intercropping annual herbs and vegetables with three species of woody plant seedlings in nursery production.

    Build two 40’ x 4’ protected nursery beds at Kelly’s Working Well Farm.

    Design and implement a program of eight hands-on workshops for small landowners and beginning farmers, based on the seasonal rhythms of plants and propagation.  

    Promote on-farm tree nurseries and integrated farm practices.

    Build KWWF nursery inventory based on Northeast Ohio’s diverse ecosystems and to mitigate challenges related to climate change and land degradation.

    Generate interest in agroforestry and perennial crops within the community.

    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.