What is Agroforestry?

Agroforestry is the combination of trees and agriculture systems. Whether seeking to make productive use of an existing forest while conserving its overall health or restoring a forest canopy to field or shrubland, agroforestry practices offer a the opportunity to develop systems for growing food, medicine, and wood products while improving ecosystem health. 

The USDA defines similar to the above and further distinguishes these practices:
 In Alley cropping systems, trees are interplanted in rows with common field crops or grazing systems and provide an added yield as well as multiple ecosystem services. Any example of alley cropping would be planting rows of black walnut trees for nut/timber production while growing garlic (tolerant to jugalone) in between the rows.
 In forest farming, an existing forest canopy is utilized to grow a variety of "non-timber forest crops" include foods like mushrooms and small fruits, medicinal plants, and ornamental species. All selections must benefit from the full to partial shade regimen provided by the overstory, which can also be productive. (for example, a sugarbush or hickory nut grove)
 The main focus in the cultivation of riparian buffers is the preservation of waterway quality and habitat, with yields a secondary benefit. The maintenance of buffers between agriculture fields, housing developments, and rivers, streams, and lakes is a critical factor in the ecosystem being ble to absorb and reduce the impacts of pollutants and excess nutrients.
 Silvopasture is the combination of grazing systems and tree crops, whether in an existing forest or through establishment of trees in a pasture. The animals benefit from shade in the hot summer months and offer a short term yield for the farmer while tree crops mature and provide a long term yield. An example of a silvopasture system would be establishing a black walnut orchard and grazing cattle or sheep underneath. More on silvopasture.
Windbreaks perform the primary function of mitigating the impacts of wind loads on the landscape, but while doing this can be planted with multi-functional species to stack yields.

Agroforestry Solutions offers resources and education around all of these practices, with specific interest paid to Forest Farming (especially mushrooms) and Silvopasture, as these practices are proving to offer the best economic incentives to farmers and landowners in the Northeastern US.

While economics is not the only driver in agroforestry systems, the adaptation of these practices is surely dependent on ones ability to provide income needs or at least break even at the end of the day.