Well, there it is: Canopy’s inaugural year is in the books!

And what a memorable year it was.

We launched right into the worst of the supply chain crisis of early 2022, which delayed orders of carefully chosen equipment, followed by one of the wettest springs in Illinois recorded history, which cut our planting season in half. But thanks to the incredible effort and dedication of our team, we managed to plant over 57,000 trees – a success in our book.

There’s something special when you establish an agroforestry system in the heart of the corn belt. Somewhere out there, in a corner of a landscape wiped clean every year by annual conventional agriculture, you’ll know that something new, something durable and persistent, is afoot. These young trees may be hidden by the corn for now, but as we speak they are bursting forth in slow motion, transforming the soil, the water, and the ecology itself, creating a place out of an otherwise anonymous rectangle. It’s hard to imagine when you look back at a freshly planted field, filled as it is with “just sticks”, but a future has been set in motion that will unfold over a lifetime. It’s inspiring work, and it’s what drew us all to Canopy in the first place.

Alley cropping in Illinois
PHOTOS: Canopy

Let’s talk numbers: those 57,000 trees were planted on nine sites totaling 789 acres across Illinois and Wisconsin. Lined up end to end, the tree rows would march 56 miles across the landscape. And speaking of numbers, each of those trees had GPS coordinates logged during planting, enabling drone and satellite imagery to be used not just for agronomic insights but also reliable quantification of carbon sequestration.

At Canopy, we don’t just plant trees and walk away, we also provide ongoing management services for everything from mowing to seeding, spading to spraying, pruning to harvesting. We can do it all, and we do in fact do it all on over 250 acres of new and established agroforestry operations near our main hub in Champaign, Illinois. Among those farms are several mature black currant plantings, from which we harvested over 12,000 pounds of berries using our mechanical harvester. Watch this space – we’ll be setting harvest records for years to come!

Our first year in the nursery business was also a success, and prepared the way for significant growth in the future. We produced 11,000 trees and shrubs out of the greenhouse, along with 12,000 softwood cuttings of black currants as we populate our mother plant nursery with the best cultivars for the Midwest. In the bare-root nursery we grew over 30,000 trees and shrubs, including favorites such as chestnut, heartnut, elderberry, and persimmon. Trees are available while supplies last – and supplies will be replenished year after year!

Savanna Institute’s Kaitie Adams and Canopy’s Kevin Wolz planting trees.
Savanna Institute’s Kaitie Adams and Canopy’s Kevin Wolz planting trees. PHOTOS: Canopy

Canopy is a perennial farm management and tree planting business established by the Savanna Institute and the Grantham Foundation in 2022. To scale up agroforestry in the Midwest and unlock the potential of natural climate and water solutions, we need more tree planting services for landowners. Canopy fills that need in the marketplace, plus Canopy’s nursery sells black currant, chestnut, heartnut, persimmon, pawpaw, and shrub willow increasing supply and affordability of plant material in the area. Plants purchased at CanopyFM.com/nursery support Savanna Institute’s nonprofit mission.

What’s next for Canopy in Year Two?

Well, first of all, some of that equipment we ordered in 2021 has finally arrived, so we are excited to try that out. We’re looking forward to expanding the nursery and harvesting more crops. We’re looking forward to improving our efficiencies and becoming the well-oiled machine that we know we can be. But most of all, we’re looking forward to seeing the trees we planted last year grow, and to send thousands more on their life journey in spring.

Happy planting,

Canopy Farm Management

phone: 217.919.TREE (8733)
email: [email protected]
website: CanopyFM.com