Tree Crop Commercialization

Catalyzing tree crop industries in the Midwest


What’s holding back agroforestry adoption in the Midwest? Whether it’s designing a new mechanical harvester, helping hazelnut farmers aggregate, or designing a mobile processing hub for elderberries, the Savanna Institute’s Tree Crop Commercialization Program focuses on identifying bottlenecks to agroforestry adoption and finding solutions to those limits.

Our staff dig deep into the best research around individual tree crops and then journey throughout the Midwest talking with farmers and others within the value chain to understand the assets and challenges facing the industry. Each year we produce an impact investment report focused on a different crop, and we use these reports to try to catalyze investment in tree crop industries.

view of a hazelnut harvester

Each tree crop industry has different needs and Savanna Institute is working hard to identify and address bottlenecks to scaling-up agroforestry in the region. Here, we are experimenting with a hazelnut harvester prototype.

What are the key tree crops?

Curious about the key tree crops of the Midwest? These accessible infosheets outline the twelve most common species in our region and introduce you to some of the benefits and challenges for each crop. These sheets also include information on cost of establishment, yield per acre, and projections of profit per acre once the trees have matured.

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]

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]

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Marketing in Agroforestry

If selling at least one product or generating income is a goal of your agroforestry practice, then, it’s important to consider how you will market the product(s) you want to sell. Agricultural marketing includes all the activities producers do in order to promote and sell products to consumers.  In this module, we will review the basic elements of marketing and how to create a marketing plan for an agroforestry enterprise.