Improving Ground Cover Selection and Competition Management in the Establishment of Productive Riparian Agricultural Buffers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,995.00
Projected End Date: 04/15/2020
Grant Recipient: Regenerative Design Group
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Keith Zaltzberg
Regenerative Design Group

Information Products


  • Fruits: berries (other)
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping, conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, double cropping, forest farming, pollinator habitat, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation, drift/runoff buffers, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: mulches - living, mulching - plastic
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    Productive Agricultural Buffers (PABs) are a promising means of producing marketable yields in riparian areas while mitigating the erosion risk posed by increasing flood frequency and magnitude. Elderberry is a multipurpose crop that holds significant potential in PABs, but adoption is limited due to high establishment costs and lengthy return-on-investment timetables. Regenerative Design Group (RDG) and a collaborating herb farmer with limited investment capital are developing trials for alternative ground-cover and living mulching practices that will potentially reduce primary investment costs while increasing ecological function. The project manager will compare several different methods and determine a maintenance regime that is both ecologically and economically sustainable. The results will be shared through email, a blog, at conferences and workshops, and through the channels of partner organizations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this project is to trial establishment methods for PABs that could reduce cost and encourage farmers to adopt these critical techniques. Specifically, the goal of this project is to identify a cost-effective means for establishing elderberry plantings in a floodplain. Elderberry is a valuable plant that is commonly wildcrafted, yet remains underutilized as a cultivated crop. A successful project will provide regional farmers with a new tool to mitigate risk in an economical way and supply our region with a valuable, local nutraceutical.

    This project will seek to benefit Susan Pincus, the owner of Sawmill Herb Farm (SHF), a small, diversified, fresh herb farm located in Florence, MA. Susan is looking to expand her operations onto a rented, 6 acre parcel in the 10-year floodplain but is keen to manage risk and cost. This project will also benefit Grow Food Northampton, a farm advocacy non-profit catalyzing sustainable farming locally, managing the 400-member Community Garden, and currently renting land to Susan. A successful project will refine methods to reduce establishment costs and ongoing maintenance for elderberry, or further the development of profitable establishment methods.

    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.