Coppicing for Northeastern farms: Farmer feedback and coppice system case studies

Project Overview

ONE14-209
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,996.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Dave Jacke
Dynamics Ecological Design

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Additional Plants: trees

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, winter forage
  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: focus group
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, afforestation, biodiversity, habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, hedges - woody
  • Production Systems: permaculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Climate chaos, peak oil, and the modern schism between agriculture and forestry leave both forms of husbandry facing an uncertain future. Coppice agroforestry – the management of woody plants for straight, fast-grown, high quality ‘stump sprouts’ – has at least an 8,000 year history around the world, yet is virtually unknown in the U.S. We believe various forms of such ‘resprout silviculture’ hold tremendous promise for sustainable agriculture, especially in our region. Such systems can produce large volumes of poles and leafy material for many products including crafts, building materials, livestock fodder, fuelwood, mushroom substrates, cut flowers, etc. Yet no comprehensive resource exists to educate growers about key species, best management practices, and system design, establishment and maintenance. Especially lacking are attempts at designing and evaluating viable systems for growers. For three years, Mark Krawczyk and Dave Jacke have researched resprout silviculture, documenting European and US systems, amassing over 800 relevant journal articles, creating a database assessing the coppice potential and uses of over 700 woody species, and crafting a comprehensive manual on practices for temperate North American growers, especially northeasterners. We’ve already shared our findings with audiences on the web, at farming conferences and trade shows, in workshops, and on numerous listservs. With one year of writing left, we seek to ensure our book offers practical utility to farmers desiring to integrate various forms of coppice agroforestry into their operations using Farmer Feedback on the manuscript and by developing Case Studies through a series of coppice system Sketch Problems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We seek funding for Farmer Feedback and Case Study Development using Coppice System Sketch Problems to help us synthesize our work before Final Book Production. We need to integrate and fill gaps in chapter drafts and edit the Species Databases before we solicit responses from farmers. Sharing our work with farmers, visiting some of their sites, and doing sketch problems will help us integrate it all more fully, forcing us to work through bugs to refine the information and design processes before submitting to the publisher. End users will have a much better product for this proposed effort.

    Farmer Feedback: We plan to work with farmers running divergent operations to get feedback on significant portions of the manuscript, adapting the intensity of our review request to match their available time and energy. We plan to solicit feedback in two rounds to both reduce farmer overwhelm and offer us additional time to prepare a second batch of chapters. In each round, we will supply farmers with hard copy manuscripts, red pencils, postage-paid return envelopes, and a deadline to return red-lined manuscripts. Upon receipt, we will review their feedback and set up a conference call to discuss thoughts and responses. This feedback will inform our Draft 5 (Final Integration) editing. In return for their effort, farmers will receive a copy of the final book once released, personal acknowledgment in the book, and a chance to participate in the Sketch Problems portion of the project.

    Coppice System Sketch Problems: We will choose three diverse farm operations from our pool of reviewers as subjects for our Sketch Problems, which may become feature case studies in the book. We’ll select these farms based on factors including, but not limited to: level of participation in Farmer Feedback; farmers’ self-assessment of their operation as a candidate for one or more forms of resprout silviculture; farmers’ need for support and potential benefit from the sketch problem work; relevancy to our book project. These site visits will occur after completing the Farmer Feedback portion of the project. This enables farmers to have as much information as possible about the subject so they can participate in the Sketch Problem process as much as feasible given their schedules.

    Prior to the site visits, we’ll help each farmer articulate design goals and create simple base maps of a portion of their sites, survey their land, species resources, access to local and regional markets, skill sets, and labor pools. We’ll then brainstorm a series of schematic designs for each site in a couple of iterations during a single on-site day. These quick sketch problems will examine various ways coppice systems might fit into their operations practically and economically. We will seek to design systems that: meet the farmers’ stated goals; provide at least one or two additional products or enterprises for their farm that will bring in at least $500-$1,500 of additional income or provide a similar decrease in costs; and/or provide defined ecosystem services that will increase crop productivity or livestock performance and health, reduce costs, improve ecosystem health, soil quality, or farmer quality of life.

    Following the site visit, we will revise and refine the designs into a single proposed design scheme for each farm with a brief write up for each, describing the goals, site and operational considerations, and design choices. The farmer will review these documents and comment, after which we’ll draft a final version for potential inclusion in the book. We’ll supply each farmer with copies of the final write up and all the sketches we generate.

    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.