Getting Started

Are you ready to change the way we grow food?

At the Savanna Institute, our goal is to make sure everyone has access to the research, education, and technical assistance needed to add agroforestry to their sustainable farming practices. People who practice agroforestry integrate trees with crops or livestock on farms – enabling you to grow food and other profitable agricultural products while meeting conservation goals. Trees regenerate soil, filter water, and add beauty and biodiversity to the land. We’re here to help you learn more about agroforestry practices, promising tree crops, and farm financial planning for perennial agriculture.

Let’s get started!

Agroforestry is the integration of trees, crops and livestock into farming systems. In a nutshell, it means farming with trees.

Sustainable farming practices that incorporate trees

Agroforestry practices—such as adding trees on field edges as windbreaks or planting buffers along waterways to reduce erosion—are more familiar than you may think. Five common agroforestry practices in the US include:

  1. Alley cropping is the cultivation of crops in the alleys between regularly spaced rows of trees or shrubs.
  2. Silvopasture is the intentional integration of trees, pasture and livestock managed in a single system.
  3. Riparian buffers are trees planted as strips of permanent vegetation alongside a stream, lake or wetland.
  4. Windbreaks are strips of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop or livestock production while providing conservation benefits.
  5. Forest Farming is the cultivation of specialty crops under existing forest canopies.

Download the factsheets to learn more.

Do you have access to land?

Long-term land access is a key requirement of getting started in any type of perennial agriculture. Tree crops take time to mature, and it may be years before farmers turn a profit off their harvests. We know that accessing land is not easy. Our resources help beginning farmers navigate long-term lease options.

Coming in 2024, we are also creating resources to guide landowners in making more long-term leases available to perennial farmers.

Learn more about perennial farm finances.

Become an apprentice

If you do not yet have access to land, we recommend our Agroforestry Apprenticeship program where you can gain on-farm experience on an established perennial farm in the Midwest. For ten weeks over the summer (any ten weeks that fits your schedule), apprentices work on farms and take courses with a cohort of other aspiring farmers. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Learn more about becoming an apprentice.

Do you have a question about adding trees to your land?

One-on-one Support for Farm Planning

Get help planning your perennial farm system. Our Technical Service program is here to guide you through the process of planning, financing, and planting trees on your farm.

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Want to learn more?

Agroforestry Foundations

The Agroforestry Foundations course is designed to introduce you to a diversity of agroforestry practices, financial arrangements, farm designs and business models while helping you reflect on your own personal values and goals.

Perennial Pathways: Planting Tree Crops

  • A comprehensive, 110-page guidebook to designing and installing farm-scale edible agroforestry
  • Indispensable for new agroforestry farmers throughout the stages of farm startup
  • Available as a free PDF download and also as a book shipped directly to you for $26

Give a gift that heals the climate

When you purchase a gift from our giving guide, you help plant more trees to draw down carbon and improve water quality for generations. Instead of buying plants from nurseries which increases our carbon footprint through transportation and delivery, this package helps us work in smaller packages of seeds and scion to get our Campus Nursery and plantings off to the most sustainable start. One lb of seed plants one acre and ensures further revenue to support education, research, and demonstration.