Agroforestry, the integration of trees with crops and livestock, is a transformative solution to the ecological and economic issues of agriculture. However, some of the hurdles to agroforestry adoption in the Midwest include inadequate demonstration of practices at scale and limited on-the-ground training opportunities. As a consequence, it can be difficult for farmers seeking to adopt agroforestry to access information about the best practices or day-to-day management of agroforestry systems, particularly organic agroforestry. With support from previous NCR-SARE grants, the Savanna Institute created a network of eight Institute-operated Demo Farms in Illinois and Wisconsin and launched an apprenticeship program. Together, these programs aim to catalyze agroforestry adoption across the Midwest and develop the next generation of agroforestry farmers through on-farm job training, research, and demonstration. In 2021, Savanna Institute expanded its demo farm network to include a four-farm campus in Spring Green, WI. The campus works with local farmers to demonstrate production-scale agroforestry and provide intensive job training for beginning farmers.
While the Savanna Institute has been sharing information and best management practices for years based on its experience on the Demonstration Farms, the SGC is the first network of agroforestry demonstration farms experimenting with organic management practices at scale. For many years the agroforestry community in the Midwest has requested more detailed resources on best practices for organic agroforestry. Through hands-on experience at the Spring Green Campus and on-farm training with neighboring farms in the Spring Green area, apprentices in the Savanna Institute program are well-positioned to gather and disseminate information about organic agroforestry in a range of settings.
This proposal seeks support for coordinated educational efforts including (1) documenting the empirical knowledge gathered during the establishment of the Spring Green Campus farms using organic methods, (2) providing on-farm training to farmers looking to learn about agroforestry, (3) supporting the local community of farmers looking to implement agroforestry, and (4) gathering and sharing best management practices for organic agroforestry and integration of agroforestry with other organic agriculture. This project builds on the Savanna Institute’s existing Spring Green Campus, apprenticeship program, and outreach program by expanding their geography, diversifying the type of on-farm opportunities available to beginning agroforestry farmers, empowering partner farmers and landowners as researchers and educators, and overall increasing the impact of the Spring Green Campus to serve as an invaluable education hub for farmers, landowners, policy makers, and the public throughout the upper Midwest region.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Document and share knowledge about the implementation of organic agroforestry systems at scale
- Support local farmers and institutions looking to implement agroforestry
- Educate apprentices about how agroforestry at the SGC integrates with other organic practices
- Increased understanding of agroforestry management, profitability, and environmental benefits
- Increased visibility and accessibility of the SGC Farms as educational assets
- Applying agroforestry knowledge obtained through on-farm education by beginning farmers, site visitors, and collaborators
- Increased number of agroforestry professionals able to support adoption and demonstration
SYSTEM CHANGE OUTCOMES
- Widespread adoption of agroforestry
- Enhanced farm profitability and ecological resilience