- Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping, forest farming, silvopasture
- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, new enterprise development
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems, other
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, other
Problem or Opportunity and Justification:
Private and public landowners are increasingly interested in adopting agroforestry for its multiple benefits, including positive economic and environmental outcomes, climate resilience, food security, and the enhancement of rural livelihood strategies. Although agroforestry research has been ongoing in North America for the past thirty years, minimal measurable impact on adoption has occurred. In the Technical Service Providers community, in the case of this grant, we are explicitly referencing NRCS conservation planners. The USDA is often the first point of contact for farmers; however, very few conservation planners have experience in the agroforestry practices associated with production. Support for farmers interested in alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture practices is limited partly because planners have less experience resolving how these three specific practices can address resource concerns. This issue results in conservation planners promoting these specific practices measurably less than riparian buffers and windbreaks, the two practices associated with protecting or enhancing ecosystem function.
Solution and Approach:
Interlace Commons will utilize a farmer-centered curriculum called the Field Consultancy Program to support agricultural landowners interested in designing and implementing alley cropping, forest farming, and silvopasture while concurrently providing agroforestry training for training NRCS conservation planners to reduce knowledge barriers preventing agroforestry promotion and technical assistance. The two-year program results in a case study including a farm narrative, site analysis, field and enterprise plans.
Performance targets from proposal:
As a result of this project, nine landowners in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont - farming pasture, forest, and arable land - will convert 5to10 acres each (60 total acres*) from single-function landscapes to alley cropping, forest farming, or silvopasture. The anticipated benefits from each practice are listed below. While it is impossible to verify these benefits fully by the project's end, the nine farmers will be surveyed to capture expected and/or realized benefits from their perspective.**
Alley cropping: product diversification of high value, long-term crops. Silvopasture: micro-climate modification increasing the nutritive value of forages, Forest farming: land-use intensification