Our Latest Perennial Report

Future generations will look back at this time to see the seeds we have passed on and the trees we have planted as archives of our love, to use the phrase Ross Gay offered us at the 2023 Perennial Farm Gathering.

These days, thinking in terms of generations can be pretty sobering. For 10,000 years—the span of human civilization—atmospheric carbon dioxide held steady below 280 parts per million (ppm). When I was born, we had already gone up 62 ppm, from 280 to 342 ppm. 

In 2023, we hit a new record: 424 ppm. That’s another 82 ppm more, in just my lifetime. We’re in a time of accelerating change. How are we responding to that change?

In these reflections, the Savanna Institute community gives me hope of responses that will be meaningful to future generations. There are real climate solutions here. A 2023 study in the academic journal Nature Climate Change made the case that agroforestry may represent the single most climate impactful change that we globally can make in agriculture. North America is one of the key places where that impact is taking root, with lots of room to grow. 

Why is agroforestry such a powerful climate solution? Trees are really good at photosynthesizing! And when they do, trees pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Trees turn atmospheric carbon into sugars in sap and fruit and seeds, they hold on to carbon as cellulose in wood, and they pump carbon into the soil. 

Farmers have such awesome powers as stewards of photosynthesis. Agroforestry is a toolkit to wield this power to make our farms more productive and resilient and beautiful. And when farms have more trees, the whole world is better off.

“It’s the greatest job in the world to be a chestnut farmer. My dad planted all kinds of trees, and chestnuts just happened to do better than anything else we had. It was a crop that chose me—I didn’t choose to grow them.”
Greg Miller, Route 9 Cooperative, Tree Crop Improvement Program Partner

There are, however, barriers to reaching that better world.  Our amazingly skilled and dedicated staff have zeroed in on these barriers, and we are working to overcome them through partnerships, with cutting-edge research, with on-farm demonstration of new crops and techniques, with boots on the ground on farms across the landscape, and with momentum supplied by our visionary supporters. 

Each year, we release a Perennial Report packed with stories from our community, hopeful milestones toward our vision, and organizational financial reporting. Read the stories and think big picture with us in our latest Perennial Report.

In this Perennial Report, I’m delighted to share what the Savanna Institute and our partners are doing to hasten this better world through agroforestry. Trees on farms contribute to more productive crop and livestock enterprises, more resilient livelihoods in vibrant rural communities, improved soil and water quality, more homes for wildlife, and a transformation of agriculture into a powerful climate solution.

Read on for more about how we’ve worked to overcome barriers and scale-up agroforestry in 2023:

  • Addressed the lack of region-specific demonstrations by adding new demonstration farms to our network
  • Grew the number of people trained in agroforestry technical assistance to address the shortage of technical support for farmers
  • Invested in breeding for perennial crops that have been neglected by crop research and development for a century
  • Built community with neighbors at in-person and online events throughout the year
  • Grew a coalition of perennial and agroforestry organizations to accelerate collaboration for the climate
“Our primary goal is to make connection. Conservation comes through introducing people in a comfortable way to something so they can get to know it—and then they love it and protect it. That’s how conservation works.”
Matt Smith, Research and Conservation Director, Riveredge Nature Center, Water and Agroforestry Program Partner

Together, we are on a tree-lined path to healing the land and climate.  This is part of the broader path we all seek for present and future generations: inspiring peace and justice and shared prosperity. Thanks for your part in planting archives of our love along this path and moving us forward, together.

Keefe Keeley

With gratitude,
Keefe Keeley
Executive Director
Savanna Institute