Wisconsin NRCS and the Savanna Institute partner to create agroforestry demonstration sites across the state

by | Dec 13, 2023 | Press

Sites will demonstrate farming practices that integrate trees into local food systems and help Wisconsin meet its conservation goals
 

Spring Green, WI – The Savanna Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today plans to develop a statewide agroforestry demonstration farm network in Wisconsin where farmers can see examples of how to integrate trees successfully on farms for conservation and for profit. The cooperative agreement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $1.4 million into agroforestry demonstration and educational opportunities across Wisconsin in an effort to increase the number of landowners planting trees and other perennials on agricultural land.

“Agroforestry is a good option for farmers and would benefit the agricultural productivity and environmental health of Wisconsin,” said Eric Allness, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships. “Agroforestry is a cornerstone of sustainable land use which can provide new and diverse revenue sources for farmers.”

Some agroforestry practices, such as trees planted in windbreaks along field edges or in riparian buffers along riverbanks, are already common in Wisconsin. Harder to find are demonstrations of alley cropping, where farmers plant rows of trees into crop fields, and silvopasture, where trees are planted in livestock pastures for animal shade and food. If adopted widely, these two agroforestry practices in particular could boost Wisconsin’s agricultural productivity while improving soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat throughout the state.

“The most frequent request we hear from farmers is the need to see agroforestry on a working farm in their geography and community,” said Kaitie Adams, who develops agroforestry demonstration farm networks throughout the region for the Savanna Institute. “We also hear the need for region-specific research and producer networks that growers can tap into—our partnership with WI NRCS will address these key needs shared by Wisconsin farmers, land managers, and stewards.”

Financing the cost of trees remains a significant barrier to adopting agroforestry. To address this, the Savanna Institute and WI NRCS also partner to provide Wisconsin farmers one-on-one technical assistance to plan, design, and fund the cost of trees. Demand for agroforestry technical service in Wisconsin has remained high since this program was established in 2021, with farmers, landowners, and institutions looking to integrate trees on their land.

Savanna Institute’s agroforestry demonstration farm network in Wisconsin will host public events, educational resources, and trainings for NRCS staff to help them better serve farmers with the technical assistance needed to integrate trees effectively into farm systems. For Wisconsin residents and landowners interested in becoming an agroforestry demonstration farm, email [email protected] to connect.

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The Savanna Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works with farmers and scientists to lay the groundwork for widespread agroforestry adoption in the Midwest US. Inspired by the native savanna ecosystems that once covered much of this region, the Savanna Institute conducts research, education, and outreach to support the growth of diverse, perennial agroecosystems.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

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