HELENA, Mont. — On a forested hill in the mountains north of Montana’s capital, beneath a canopy of pine and spruce, Marc and Gloria Flora have planted more than 300 smaller trees, from apple and pear to black walnut and chestnut.
Beneath the trees are layers of crops: shrubs like buffalo berries and raspberries, edible flowers like day lilies, vines like grapes and hops, and medicinal plants, including yarrow and arnica.
Turkeys and chickens wander the two-acre plot, gobbling hackberries and bird cherries that have fallen from trees planted in their pen, and leaving manure to nourish the plants.
For the Floras, the garden is more than a source of food for personal use and sale. Ms. Flora, an environmental consultant and former supervisor for the United States Forest Service, is hoping it serves as a demonstration project to spur the growth of agroforestry — the science of incorporating trees into traditional agriculture.
What’s really interesting about this description is that it goes way beyond “conventional” agroforestry (silvopasture, forest farming, windbreaks, alley cropping, etc.) and into the more complex ecosystem-mimic designs of permaculture-bsaed food forestry. The article doesn’t make this distinction – which in some ways is super cool for something so ecological and integrated to be presented as agroforestry’s public face. Like it!
This also happens to be very related to how I’m thinking about my next major research and writing project – a manual on agroforestry practices for the Northeast I’ll be spending next year writing with the support of a USDA/Forest Service “Northern Forests” grant through UVM. Without giving too much away early on, I’ll be rethinking the “taxonomy” of agroforestry practices and writing a decision-making framework for agroforestry systems based on goals and some specific ecosystem patterns. I’ll also be delving into financial and legal strategies for starting up long-term regenerative agriculture projects, with specific successful models and case studies, to address the challenges we’ve been talking about here around financing and regenerative agriculture. Previews and snippets of this work will probably appear periodically on the blog next year. So stay tuned!