Developing perennial markets for Midwestern growers

The Savanna Institute is developing strategic partnerships to increase the viability of agroforestry in the Midwest. Our goal is to stimulate the development of regional food systems that can realize the full potential of agroforestry. Deep-rooted perennial crops, such as elderberries, black currants, hazelnuts and chestnuts, draw down carbon from the atmosphere and build resilience against extreme weather and flooding. The Savanna Institute and its partners are investing heavily in research, market development and farmer education for these versatile perennial crops. Our impact investment reports on chestnuts and hazelnuts identify bottlenecks in scaling up Midwest markets for nut growers. We also produce marketing materials and grower guides on key perennial crops used in Midwest agroforestry systems.

Explore a dozen key perennial crops used in agroforestry systems

What trees should you plant? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, but one of the most important things to consider is the market.

Download the Key Perennial Crops Infosheets

The Savanna Institute has identified a dozen promising perennial agroforestry crops for Midwest growers. Download the free infosheets to:

  • Learn about the benefits and challenges of growing cider apples, aronia, black currants, black walnut, chinese chestnuts, hazelnuts, elderberries, juneberry (also known as saskatoon, serviceberry), Asian pear, honeyberry (also known as haskap), Northern pecan, and pawpaw. 

  • Print out crop infosheets to distribute at your extension office or farmers market stand.

Small Fruit Grower Guides

Black Currants: A Superfruit for the Midwest

High in vitamin C and other antioxidants, black currants continue to be regarded as one of the best berries for overall human health. Buyers appreciate the dark color of the berries and their juice, and their nutrient density makes black currants a real superfood. Growers appreciate that black currants are very cold-hardy, tolerate a wide range of soils and are not a preferred food for whitetail deer.

American Elderberry: A Native Perennial Crop for the Midwest

Elderberries have been used by humans for centuries as both food and medicine. Demand for elderberry products in the US continues to exceed supply as consumers seek out elderberry products as a source of immune system support. The resources on this page are intended to introduce both prospective elderberry growers and consumers to this promising native perennial agroforestry crop.

Impact Investment Reports

Catalyzing the chestnut industry

The US accounts for less than 1% of global chestnut production, yet imports $20 million worth of chestnuts annually. Increasing US annual per capita consumption from 0.1 pound to the European level of 1 pound would support an additional $300 million US industry. Beyond direct consumption, this crop’s latent potential lies in its ability to supplant corn as a staple source of carbohydrates. Additional benefits would accrue from the crop’s deep roots, which capture excess nutrients and reduce eutrophication of surface waters, and from the habitat that trees provide for birds, beneficial insects, and other wildlife.

The Savanna Institute’s Chestnut Commercialization Project works with stakeholders from aross the value chain to build the market for Midwest chestnuts, help producers connect and aggregate, and identify bottlenecks that impact investing might help overcome. If you are interested in learning more about this program, please contact Bill Davison at [email protected]

Impact investing in the Midwest hazelnut industry

In the face of climate change, we need transformative solutions that transcend the fundamental issues of annual crops. Perennial staple crops are one solution. Hazelnuts, in particular, present a timely economic and environmental strategy in the Midwest US. While the existing $7 billion global market for hazelnuts is on track to double this decade, this crop’s latent potential lies in its ability to supplant soybean as a staple source of protein and oil. 

If adopted broadly, hazelnuts could help reverse agriculture’s role in climate change. Over 1,500 Mt carbon (~30% of annual US CO2 emissions) could be sequestered in woody biomass alone if hazelnuts replaced the existing 84 million acres of soybean across the Midwest. 

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, contact David Bruce at [email protected]

Deep-rooted long-lived tree crops improve the soil, help retain water, improve biodiversity, sequester carbon, and mitigate the effects of floods. Tree crops help us heal our climate, regenerate our communities, and share stories and values across generations. It is time to transform American agriculture through tree crops.

“I trust Savanna Institute to be careful stewards of land that’s important to me and my family, and to develop and spread farming practices that will increase biodiversity and fight climate change.”


                                                                  – Jack L.