AFTA Session

Day 2 – Monday, Dec. 7th, 2020

11am – 12:20pm

AFTA Session

  Agroforestry for Regional Food Security

Andria Caruthers, University of Missouri   

[email protected] 


The impact of COVID-19 on the US food system led to disruptions in the food supply chain increasing food insecurity, especially among America’s most vulnerable populations. Risks and uncertainties made it difficult to get food from farmers to consumers, highlighting a less than resilient supply chain. With nationwide shutdowns keeping food stranded upstream from consumers, local farmers and farmers markets had to pivot their operations and adopt safety protocols to meet the growing demand for locally produced food. The situation revealed the necessity to enhance regional food security and access to healthy and nutritious foods by strengthening regional food supply chains for future stressors. Multifunctional perennial cropping systems, like agroforestry, produce diverse, sustainably grown food products that can build-up local and regional food environments for nutrition and food security while enhancing ecosystem services. This review will look at agroforestry production systems for food and nutrition security and opportunities for agroforestry products in regional and local supply chains.


Aridamerican Desert Polycultures for Resilient Lands and Communities


Erin C. Riordan, Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, University of Arizona

[email protected],

Gary Paul Nabhan, Southwest Center and Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, University of Arizona

[email protected]


Across western North America, megadroughts supercharged by anthropogenic warming are threatening human health and testing the limits of conventional crops and industrialized food production. Desert-adapted food plants and Traditional Knowledge, however, can provide a foundation for a new model of climate-smart food production that is more resilient to climate change while benefiting both land and human health. Focusing on arid North America (“Aridamerica”) as a laboratory for the future, we constructed a list of candidate crops based on the diets of the Comcaac, O’odham, and Pima Bajo Peoples of the Sonoran Desert. We then screened representative food plant genera for traits related to agroecological functionality, human health, community well‐being, and agronomic suitability. Indigenous food plants from at least 80 different genera have a long tenure of broad use across Aridamerica, suggesting wide acceptability and value for climate-smart agriculture. We highlight 17 of these genera with high potential to simultaneously improve agroecological function, human health, and community prosperity in the face of climate change. When assembled into perennial polycultures modeled after arid ecosystems and Traditional Knowledge, desert plants can produce disease‐preventing foods and generate rural livelihoods. Furthermore, desert polycultures can be integrated into

solar energy and rainwater harvesting systems that maximize yield reliability while minimizing fossil fuel, agrichemical, and surface and groundwater use. As communities around the world consider a hotter, drier future, arid-adapted food production will be a key component to resilient food systems.   

Restoring the Matrix 

Cynthia Lane, Ecological Strategies, LLC

[email protected]


For a food-producing system to be sustainable and resilient, practices must be ecologically grounded and designed to protect and restore natural ecosystems. Therefore, a critical element of any agroforestry project is the careful planning, protection, and restoration of on-site and neighboring native landscapes. Dr. Lane has a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology, with a minor in Forestry, and a research emphasis in Restoration Ecology. She has worked as a research and applied ecologist for 30 years assessing land health, land planning, and implementing restoration and management plans to protect and enhance the health of natural ecosystems. The focus of her presentation for this conference will be on how to assess a current or proposed agroforestry project at the site and landscape scale. For example, Dr. Lane will provide methods for evaluating and restoring landscape pattern and habitat connectivity. She will provide a framework for how to use site assessment information to inform project design.

Zumwalt Acres: A Community Oriented Approach to Regenerative Farming in the Corn Belt

Gavrielle Welbel, Zumwalt Acres

[email protected]


Zumwalt Acres is a regenerative agriculture initiative in Sheldon, IL, focused on transitioning a multi-generational family farm of woods, beef cattle pasture, and corn and soybean row crops into an agroforestry-based, carbon-smart farm. Our goal is to create a model showing the environmental and financial benefit of this approach to agriculture, ultimately encouraging surrounding farms to incorporate similar practices.  The first step in creating a reproducible model is building a nursery to grow nut trees and fruit shrubs from seeds, based on Savanna Institute’s recommendations for Midwestern native species grown for agroforestry. The trees will ultimately be transplanted into an agroforest with wind breaks, alley cropping, and multi-story cropping. Additionally, we are producing biochar, a form of carbonized organic material that has been shown to sequester carbon and increase soil fertility when applied. We will rebuild and revitalize our soil, which has been degraded by years of chemical-intensive agriculture. We will maintain close contact with Sheldon farmers in order to learn about the current systems and constraints they operate within and their hopes for the future of Midwestern agriculture. We will consult with family members who manage the surrounding 1000 acres of corn and soybeans to understand how our research can translate usefully into their practice. We have the opportunity now to be a leader in expanding tree planting, carbon drawdown, and soil-healing practices by conducting systematic field-based studies that demonstrate the immense economic, ecological, and social benefits of regenerative agriculture.



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