Thank you for joining us for the 2023 Perennial Farm Gathering


Day 1

Wednesday, December 6th 

9am – 5:30pm CST

We kick off our Perennial Farm Gathering with an audience favorite: Nutshell Talks. These five-minute talks from our community of farmers, researchers, and perennial enthusiasts deliver the latest updates and innovations from the field. We celebrate our Deep Roots and New Shoots awards, which recognize leaders in the field of perennial agriculture, and we are honored to welcome our first keynote speaker: Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer for her talk, “The Fortress, the River, and the Garden,” and live Q&A. Our community of presenters fill out the day with sessions on persimmons, poultry, funding opportunities, and creative farm design.

9am – 9:30am CST

Welcome with Keefe Keeley, Executive Director at the Savanna Institute

Savanna Institute’s Executive Director Keefe Keeley welcomes all to the Perennial Farm Gathering and sets the stage for three days of discussion, creativity, and nutshell talks with fellow perennial agriculture enthusiasts.

9:30am – 11am CST

Nutshells Talks: Share your perennial story

Moderator: Jacob Grace, host of Perennial AF, Savanna Institute

A perennial favorite of the gathering, our Nutshell Talks invite audience members to share five-minute updates, stories, lessons-learned or nagging questions from their work. You can include slides or other visual aids if you’d like–or you can just talk with guests. Nutshells are a great way to connect with a community of practice and help build knowledge across the region. Sign-up for a five-minute slot when you register for the event up to one week before. First come, first serve until.


10am – 11:15am CST

Agroforestry Ingenuity in the Pacific Northwest

Jared Busen, Snohomish Conservation District 

Patrick Shults, WSU Extension, Agroforestry NW 

Agroforestry in the Pacific Northwest is being practiced as a better way to produce food, and also inspiring new ways of imaging agroforestry for a plethora of land use challenges. Join us to learn how agroforestry is being adopted by visionary farmers and ecological stewards to address emerging social and ecological concerns in our region. These innovators will tell you about what they are doing in their own words, and share their work developing a cathedral of native trees and shrubs, a new farmland protection and land access model, and agroforestry for salmon restoration.



11:15am – 11:45am CST

Deep Roots, New Shoots Awards

Honoring Rich Straight and Gavi Welbel

Moderator: Keefe Keeley, Savanna Institute

These awards are our way to recognize the accomplishments of, and express our deep appreciation for, those who have worked to advance the science, practice, and adoption of agroforestry.



12pm – 1pm CST

Keynote: “The Fortress, the River, and the Garden” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s talk examines the relationship between three metaphors for types of knowledge. The Fortress is the metaphor for the dominance of western science and its virtual erasure of indigenous knowledge, the River refers to Indigenous models of autonomy and coexistence between western and indigenous knowledge and the Garden examines the potential for a productive symbiosis between western and indigenous knowledges which could grow together in complementarity. This recorded talk runs 48 minutes, followed by a live Q&A with the author.

1pm – 1:45pm CST

Live Q&A with Robin Wall Kimmerer

Moderator: Curt Miene, Advisory Council, Savanna Institute

A mother, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom and Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, which has earned her worldwide acclaim. She is also the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Kimmerer is interested in restoration not only of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land.



Red Fern Farm

2pm – 3pm CST

Stewarding the Future of American Persimmon Cultivars

Eliza Greenman, Savanna Institute

Historically, the American persimmon has been an important crop for thousands of years throughout North America. Yet, their incredible utility has been reduced to the waning culinary tradition of making persimmon pudding. Using this dish as its guide, this talk will connect Savanna Institute’s work in tree crop breeding to the American persimmon with the unlikely mix of regional folklore, box turtles, and newly affordable genetic tools. We hope to connect Indigenous selection of perennials with developments from our Tree Crop Improvement Program to catalyze persimmons into mainstream agroforestry.

2pm – 2:45pm CST

Agroforestry Design for Field Monitoring

Sven Pihl, Savanna Institute

From design to planting to field monitoring, how GIS can be your friend. Presenter Sven Pihl is part of Savanna Institute’s Agroforestry Technical Service Program, providing assistance to Illinois farmers and landowners who want to develop agroforestry systems. Prior to being hired as a GIS/CAD TSP Team Lead for the Technical Service Program, Sven operated CT Edible Ecosystems and was a sought-after designer, educator and conference presenter throughout New England. Sven has 12+ years of professional experience in permaculture, agroforestry, ecological design and site planning.

The Nature Conservancy

3pm – 4pm CST

New Funding Opportunities for Agroforestry Farmers

Audrey Epp Schmidt, The Nature Conservancy

Barbara Decré and Fred Iutzi, Savanna Institute

Join the Savanna Institute and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to learn about how the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities grants are making new funding available for agroforestry farmers. This session will give an overview of the scope of the Nature Conservancy’s $64-million project to expand agroforestry in 30 US states and of the partners involved. We will provide information about the practices funded and details on how TNC and partners are building a program aiming at transitioning 30,000 acres of land to agroforestry. Farmers and landowners ready to implement agroforestry systems will also walk away with information on how to work with Savanna Institute and other Technical Service Providers to access this funding.


3pm – 4pm CST

An Ecosystems Approach with Poultry-Centered Regenerative Agriculture

Diane Christofore and Louis Kemp, Regenerative Agriculture Alliance

An introduction to the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance and the Poultry Centered Regenerative Agricultural (PCRA) ecosystem we are working to create with our partners. With guest farmers speaking about their experiences, we will be delving into the intersection of agroforestry and the PCRA production method by looking at the specifics of paddock establishment and management.

4pm – 5:30pm CST

It Isn’t a Recipe! Agroforestry, Agroecology, and Permaculture Design

Emilie Tweardy, Appalachian Sustainable Development

Nance Klehm, Social Ecologies

Tonia Andreina, Savanna Institute

Moderator: Jenn Ripp, Savanna Institute

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the different resources available for perennial planting systems? So many different terms can be used to describe and inform development of perennial systems, but where do you begin and do you need to research *every thing* before taking action? We’ll be discussing how to build your own capacity for implementing holistic design at a place based level. Panelists approach holistic design through lenses of personal experience and innovative design approaches steeped in traditionally stewarded guiding principles. This is a great space for folks looking to get started on their own project and generally build their capacity for project based perennial planting plans.

Day 2

Thursday, December 7th

9am – 5:30pm CST

Day 2 invites participants into a discussion on equity and racial justice in agroforestry, and Keynote Speaker Dr. Ross Gay guides us in “Cultivating Sustainable Joy” in our collective work to transform agriculture. Self-care and artistic design are themes for the day, as well as explorations in technical topics including hazelnuts, forest farming, riparian buffers, non-food crops for agroforestry, and multi-generational land transfers. A second round of Nutshell Talks provides an opportunity for audience members to share their work in five-minute micro-presentations.

9am-9:45am CST

Up From the Roots: Centering Racial Justice to Build Transformative Agroforestry

Ruth Tyson and Rafter Fergson, Interlace Commons

Agroforestry has the potential to make a transformative impact on US agriculture: helping farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change, increasing profitability, and providing numerous additional benefits. However, agroforestry is a complex and capital-intensive undertaking and farmers require more support to meaningfully expand adoption. Institutions across sectors are scaling up funding and programmatic support for agroforestry, but there is a danger that without focused effort, this wave of support could perpetuate the systemic exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers. Failure to address these issues would limit the transformative potential of agroforestry, by leaving it without the deep perspective, broad coalition, and accessible pathways to participation that it needs to flourish. Discuss ways to center racial justice in our collective work with authors of “Up From the Roots,” a 2023 report published by Interlace Commons and funded by Edwards Mother Earth Foundation.

Up From the Roots PDF

9am – 10am CST

Non-food Crops for Agroforestry

Eric Toensmeier, Author, The Carbon Farming Solution

Anni Zylstra, Anni Zylstra Basketry

Kaitie Commender, Appalachian Sustainable Development

Rebecca Burgess, Fibershed

Moderator: Bill Davison, Savanna Institute

This panel includes experts from across the country who work with non-food crops. Eric Toensmeier, a lecturer at Yale and a Senior Fellow with Project Drawdown, will introduce the session which includes: Rebecca Burgess, founder of Fibershed, a nonprofit organization focused on education, advocacy, and research that directly drives economic development for decentralized fiber and natural dye systems; Anni Zylstra, a folk singer, basketmaker, farmer, and weaver of community, who will share her experience growing willows for basketry; and Katie Commender, who works for Appalachian Sustainable Development to train the next generation of forest farmers and will share her experience growing and marketing medicinal herbs.


9:30am – 10:15am CST

UMHDI Hazelnut ‘Go First Farm’ Collaboration and Progress in 2023, Looking Ahead

Kurt Kimber, Kimber Contours

Lois Braun, Andrew Leach, and Colin Cureton, UMN Forever Green

The Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI) is moving into the next phase of its efforts to develop hazelnuts for the Upper Midwest. In 2023, UMHDI partners in Minnesota developed a systematic outreach process to identify ‘Go First Farm’ (GFF) partners for deployment of its 1st-generation selections, and established Minnesota’s first GFF Farm, and Wisconsin UMHDI partners established their fourth. Grower Kurt Kimber will present his experience establishing the first phase of a five-acre hazelnut planting on his diversified organic farm, which is being established into an older stand of Kernza perennial grain and alley-cropped for several years. University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative team members will co-present their experience working with Kurt on this project as well as 2024 GFF recruitment priorities. Lastly, presenters will touch on entrepreneurial pathways being explored for stacked enterprises that will enable and accelerate the development of the regional hazelnut industry.

10am – 11:30am CST

Everything You Wanted to Know about Forest Farming

(but didn’t know to ask)

Robin Suggs, Appalachian Sustainable Development

Ingrid Daudert, Misty Dawn Farm, WI

Karam Sheban, Northeast Forest Farmers Coalition

Robin Suggs will start this session with a brief overview of the types of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) typically produced in a forest farming setting, and talk site considerations, production methods, and market opportunities relevant to the forest farming of NTFPs for profit. Ingrid Daudert of Misty Dawn Farm will focus on the challenges and opportunities of mushroom farming and share information about the Shiitake Grower’s Association. Karam Sheban will share his work creating and building the Northeast Forest Farmers Coalition, which brings together forest farming research, education, and community building in the Northeastern US.

10:30am – 12pm CST

Nutshell Talks: Share your perennial story

Moderator: Jacob Grace, host of Perennial AF, Savanna Institute

A perennial favorite of the gathering, our Nutshell Talks invite audience members to share five-minute updates, stories, lessons-learned or nagging questions from their work. You can include slides or other visual aids if you’d like–or you can just talk with guests. Nutshells are a great way to connect with a community of practice and help build knowledge across the region. Sign-up for a five-minute slot when you register for the event up to one week before. First come, first serve.



11:30am – 1pm CST

Beyond Planting: The Art + Oh-Sh*t of Maintaining Agroforestry Systems

Mark and Tammy Allen, Autumn Mill Farm, Argenta, IL

Eric Wolske, Canopy Farm Management, Urbana, IL

Moderator: Kaitie Adams, Savanna Institute

Hosted in partnership with the Delta Institute, this panel discussion will focus on planning and designing for long-term maintenance, weed management, on-the-fly, field-level decision-making, favorite equipment and tools, and tips and tricks to keep your agroforestry systems healthy for the long haul. Come with questions, conundrums, and your own success stories to share! Our panelists will do their best to answer your questions and connect you with resources to support you on your way to success.



12pm – 12:30pm CST

Southwestern Tribal Agroforestry Outreach Program

Alicia Thompson, National Young Farmers Coalition

Leah Potter-Weight, Quivira Coalition

Hear from team members of the Southwestern Tribal Agroforestry Outreach Project and what they’ve been learning about Indigenous-led agroforestry efforts in the Southwest – including the importance of collaboration, relationships, and storytelling, and how traditional ecological knowledge shapes agroforestry in this region. We’ll share videos and other educational materials highlighting agroforestry initiatives from Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, Tewa Women United’s Healing Foods Oasis, and Santa Ana Pueblo’s Native Plant Nursery.


1pm – 2:30pm CST

Keynote: Cultivating Sustainable Joy by Ross Gay

Ross Gay is an award-winning author and creative-writing professor, publishing four books of poetry—Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude—and three collections of essays—The Book of Delights, Inciting Joy, and The Book of (More) Delights. He is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project.

Join us for a reading from the author, by the author, of his work followed by a Q&A.

American Farmland Trust

2:45pm-3:30pm CST

Harvestable Riparian Buffers

Devon Brock-Montgomery and Xinyuan Shi, Savanna Institute

Gary Bentrup, USDA National Agroforestry Center

Howard Peller, Living Willow Farm

Join us as we discuss perennial vegetation for water quality. We will feature examples of harvestable and edible riparian buffers and profile the updated riparian buffer field tool.

2:45pm – 4pm CST

Self Care for the Long Haul

Katie Bishop, PrairiErth Farm

Stephanie Gutierrez

Hannah Hemmelgarn, Assistant Program Director at Center for Agroforestry

Moderator: Kaitie Adams, Savanna Institute

What does it mean to take care of ourselves and our communities when we commit to the work of transforming agricultural systems? We know this work is urgent, but it is not done alone. In this session, we will have an honest conversation about what self-care means, the barriers to taking care of ourselves and communities, and to do this work for the long haul.

4pm – 5:30pm CST


Austen Camille, Sarah Kavage, & Tory Tepp, DTour Artists

Moderator: Philip Matthews, Wormfarm Institute

Join Wormfarm Institute for a conversation with three featured artists from the 2022 Farm/Art DTour, a biennial event that invites thousands of visitors from across the Midwest to drive through fifty miles of Sauk County, Wisconsin’s working farmland, punctuated by site-responsive artworks, pasture performances, roadside poetry, local food markets, Field Notes and more. Artists Austen Camille, Sarah Kavage, and Tory Tepp will share aspects of their land-based practices which include: imagining the future of rural places and agricultural landscapes through augmented reality and test plots of new perennial crops; collaborating with farmers and creative producers across the rural-urban continuum to address environmental and social issues; exploring how the movement of plants and people through history relates to conservation practices today; and reconsidering our relationships to things wanted and unwanted in the landscape by creating earthworks using both native and “invasive” plants. Rediscover the intersection between culture and agriculture, which share an etymological root meaning “to till the soil.”



Forever Green

4pm – 5:30pm CST

Multi-generation Land Transfer

Wyn Miller, Wyn Miller Land Solutions – Alex Miller

Elle Sullivan, Wild Path Collective

Amy and Aaron Bishop, RAKC  – Harvey Benson

What does the future look like for farmland? As we transition 70 percent of America’s farmland to a new generation, this panel will explore the different options for transitioning. Agroforestry is multi-generational and so should be our farm planning. Join Wyn Miller, Elle Sullivan, and Amy Bishop and their land-owning counterparts as they explain their experiences in acquiring and transitioning land.



Day 3

Friday, December 8th

9am – 4pm CST

The final day of PFG2023 explores big-picture thinking on systems-level change and long-term planning that can help you craft a vision for the future of your farm. The Agroforestry Coalition joins us with the latest national policy updates and opportunities to collectively organize, and Indigenous presenters talk through our relationships to land. We also hear the latest from business partners who are scaling up to meet demand for more ecological agriculture. Thank you to all who joined us for this year’s Perennial Farm Gathering! We hope you have found a renewed sense of community and commitment to perennial agriculture. Recorded sessions will be available a week following the event

9am – 10am CST

Envisioning Agroforestry Success – A Farm Narrative Workshop

Barbara Decré and MJ Oviatt, Savanna Institute

The first step when designing your agroforestry system is to write down your vision. As part of Savanna Institute’s Technical Service Program, clients develop their Farm Narrative, a document that highlights goals, visions, opportunities, constraints and serves as the North star throughout the design process. Join Savanna Institute’s Adoption Team for a participative workshop aimed at better understanding this critical step in agroforestry design, be prepared to envision the future of your farm, and walk away with advice on how to prepare your own Farm Narrative.

9am – 10am CST

Agroforestry Policy Is Taking Root, Now What?

Bev Paul, Davenport Policy

Cristel Zoebisch, Carbon180

Lindsey Shapiro, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture

Moderator: Kate Wersan, Savanna Institute

In this session, we will provide an overview of the current policy landscape for agroforestry and the different avenues for engagement in the policymaking process. We will highlight recent examples of policy wins that the Agroforestry Coalition has had and share the inside scoop on how agroforestry is faring in the upcoming farm bill. We will also devote time to practice how to engage policymakers to advance agroforestry policy. Bring your questions, your stories, and get ready to sharpen your advocacy skills!

10am – 11am CST

What is the Agroforestry Coalition and how can I get involved?

Kitt Healy, Samantha Bosco, and David LeZaks, Agroforestry Coalition

The Agroforestry Coalition is a national cross-sector network of advocates, agitators and innovators working to scale up agroforestry in the US. The Coalition is still emerging, but is currently organized around seven working groups, each working to address a particular barrier to scaling agroforestry. This session will explore the initiatives arising from these seven working groups, hold space for questions about the Coalition in general, and lead participants through a mini reflection on how they talk about their agroforestry work publicly.



10:30am – 12pm CST

Systems Change – the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Tree-Range Farms

Moderator: Keefe Keeley, Savanna Institute

How have we practiced systems change so far? What have the barriers been, and continue to be, on this journey? Join Tree Range’s Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin for a meditation on system change with Savanna Institute’s Executive Director Keefe Keeley. The want to change the system which is destroying the earth is easier said than done, and this conversation will dive into the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of systems change, in a reflective and collective approach to where we are in this life long, and multi-generational, path to healing the earth.




11:30am – 12:30pm CST

Running an Agroforestry Business: Opportunities and Challenges

Kevin Wolz, Canopy Farm Management

Austin Unruh, Trees For Graziers

Join us for a discussion with agroforestry establishment companies. Learn about the opportunities and challenges in getting trees in the ground, while making a business work in this unique space. Covering topics including funding, government cost-share seasonality, client adoption, labor, nursery stock and more.

12pm – 1pm CST

Fencing, Tree Tubes, and Innovation

Wyn Miller, Wyn Miller Land Solutions

Omar de Kok-Mercado, Mad Agriculture

Wyn Miller will discuss silvopasture establishment and protection on a 1000-acre grass-finished cattle operation in East Tennessee. By combining energized polywire with tree tubes, she has greatly increased tree survival, while also minimizing pasture loss and weed competition. Omar de Kok-Mercado will reflect on designing for culture and explore the potential of regenerative agriculture to connect farms together via perennial networks.


12:30pm – 2pm CST

Dispossession & Displacement: The Colonial Roots of Agriculture and Forestry in North America

Alex Bagwajinini Kmett, Co-founder and Curriculum Developer at the Endazhi-nitaawiging Charter School at Red Lake, and Farmer Educational Specialist at Marbleseed.

Bagwaj will briefly describe the historical relationship between Indigenous nations and settler-colonial states that set up the legal basis for continued occupation and utilization of land and resources in North America. Land cessions, treaty violations, forced relocation, and other actions have had devastating cascading impacts throughout history on Indigenous land access, intergenerational wealth, and general wellness. As an individual entwined in that history, he will describe his own story about how he has been impacted, with special attention to the impacts of forestry in Northern Minnesota to serve as a case-study. An informed understanding of our historical context, he argues, is key to working towards our shared future.



2pm – 3:30pm CST

Tree Planting as a Relational Process

Moderators: Steve Gabriel, Wellspring Forest Farm, NY, and Jonathan McRay, Silver Run Forest Farm

Explore alternative models of tree growing and distribution that contribute to restoring and centering whole ecosystems, economies, and communities. With the influx of public interest in agroforestry, the prospect of tree planting is being pushed onto landscapes without recognizing that inadequate funding, excessive bureaucracy, a shortage of high quality nursery stock, and the busy lives of farmers and land stewards make tree planting ever more challenging for them to undertake. We seek solutions that are based on reciprocity and community empowerment, where tree planting funding flows more directly to land stewards and communities versus being captured by institutions and organizations, and where programs center justice and equity to ensure fair access to resources. Bring your experiences, open mind, and critical lens as we discuss the gaps in current agroforestry efforts and how we can collectively change the narrative to center land, people, and community.



3:30pm – 4pm CST


Thank you for attending our 2023 Perennial Farm Gathering with Savanna Institute. We hope this gathering leaves you with a renewed inspiration and deeper connections that push forward all of our work.

Thank You PFG2023 Sponsors!

The Nature Conservancy
USDA Forest Service - National Agroforestry Center
American Farmland Trust
Canopy Farm Management
Cutler Fence, LLC
Red Fern Farm
Forever Green
Forever Green
Barred Owl Brook Farm