Agroforestry, the integration of trees with crops or livestock, is a transformative solution to the ecological and economic issues of agriculture. A major hurdle to agroforestry adoption in the Midwest is the inadequate demonstration on a scale comparable to typical row-crop farms. Such demonstration in Europe and Canada by universities and NGOs has greatly increased agroforestry adoption. From its inception, the Savanna Institute has worked with private, independent farms across the Midwest to demonstrate agroforestry. The effectiveness of this network has been limited by the fact that most farms are small, use inconsistent management, and often utilize only one of the many agroforestry practices.
To overcome these barriers and catalyze agroforestry adoption across the Midwest, the Institute is launching a network of Institute-operated Agroforestry Research & Demonstration (R&D) Farms. In partnership with public and private landowners, these farms will facilitate a broad range of decentralized education, demonstration, and research functions. The Institute already has funding for an initial group of R&D Farms in Wisconsin, which will be established in 2019.
This project, “Establishing an Illinois Network of Agroforestry Research & Demonstration Farms” will fund planning, establishment, and education at three R&D Farms in Illinois. At their core, each farm will host commercial-scale demonstration plantings of a suite of agroforestry practices. Comprehensive educational signage and on-farm educational workshops will provide multiple modes of engagement throughout the year. Direct oversight by the Institute will ensure robust, science-based management and improve long-term economic and ecological monitoring beyond what is possible with a network of independent farms.
These Agroforestry R&D Farms will serve as invaluable education hubs for farmers, landowners, investors, policy makers, and the public. Increased familiarity of the profitability and ecological benefits of agroforestry will lead to increased adoption of agroforestry by site visitors, trainees, and collaborators, who then become agroforestry advocates in their communities. Ultimately, widespread adoption of agroforestry in the North-Central Region will enhance farm profitability, ecological resilience, carbon storage, water quality, and rural job creation.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Availability of R&D Farms as an educational asset for sustainable agriculture educators throughout Illinois.
- Recognition of agroforestry’s profitability and ecological benefits by farmers, landowners, agricultural professionals, investors, and policy-makers.
- Application of agroforestry and perennial agriculture knowledge by beginning farmers
- Conversion of engaged stakeholders to agroforestry advocates in their communities
- Adoption of agroforestry by site visitors and trainees
SYSTEM CHANGE OUTCOMES
- Widespread adoption of agroforestry practices, diffusing across the landscape from R&D Farms
- Enhanced farm profitability, ecological resilience, carbon storage, water quality, and job creation