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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Farms branching out: Expanding opportunities for agroforestry markets, connections, and conservation

Sep. 11, 2023

Originally published on the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Department of Forestry at Michigan State University's website.

A team of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin researchers and Extension professionals has recently been awarded funding from USDA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help support use of agroforestry practices and markets by small and medium sized farms in the region.

“This project involves a team of passionate and dedicated researchers and Extension professionals who have worked with farmers and woodland owners in the Upper Midwest for decades. This is a unique opportunity to support synergy between forestry and agriculture professionals and landowners to expand use of agroforestry practices through the region,” said Dr. Emily Huff, the project lead and Associate Professor in the Department of Forestry at Michigan State University.

Much is known about the characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors of U.S. family forest owners and agricultural landowners independently. However, little is known about those who own both woodland and farmland, and what, if any, agroforestry and woodland management practices are used by these Farmer Woodland Owners (FWOs).

The project will provide opportunities for FWOs in each state to gather in farmer learning circles and connect with agriculture and natural resource professionals to identify innovative uses of trees and forests within agricultural systems that can improve farm viability and increase environmental and social benefits.

An initial pilot project conducted in Michigan in 2022 demonstrated the need for better connections between professionals who advise farmers and forest landowners (respectively) and to improve access to agroforestry resources among farmers.

Alyse Wilson, of Mischief Makers Farm, LLC was active in the early pilot phase of this project. “It’s being a steward of the land and working with it for our goals to either support the homestead, support a business, support whatever, but also for the health of the forest and the land. You can’t complete one without eventually depleting the other,” said Wilson.

This grant provides an opportunity to address these gaps through Peer-to-Peer Agroforestry Exchanges, improved decision support tools, cost-share for agroforestry planning and practices, and development of case study videos to highlight agroforestry and woodland management options as well as opportunities to get paid for providing environmental benefits in emerging ecosystem service markets.

The team aims to develop agroforestry demonstration farms in each state where the ecological, social, and economic impacts of agroforestry on farmers' land, businesses, and households can be evaluated.

The impact of this project on the region’s farming and forestry industries is significant. Farm viability will improve by increasing the diversity of products coming from farms. Increased carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and water quality will enhance environmental outcomes, and provide opportunities for small and medium sized farms to participate in new ecosystem service markets.

This project began summer 2023 and will continue until the end of 2028. Major milestones in the first year include recruitment of farmers to participate in Agroforestry Exchanges, and development of research protocols for demonstration farms.

If you or anyone you know might be interested in participating in this project - either research or event opportunities - please contact the Project Manager, Amanda Curton at or the Ohio State University co-leads: Kathy Smith ( and Doug Jackson-Smith (

This project is made possible by the USDA National Institute for Agriculture (Grant: 2023-68006-38980) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (Grant: 0501.22.075075).

All project partners include:

Emily Huff, Ph.D., Project Coordinator. Dr. Huff is an Associate Professor of Natural Resource Social Science in the Department of Forestry at Michigan State University.

Adena Rissman, Ph.D., Dr. Rissman is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of the Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Management at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Douglas Jackson-Smith, Ph.D. Dr. Jackson-Smith is the Kellogg Chair and Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and Director of the Agroecosystem Management Program at the Ohio State University.

Kristin Floress, Ph.D.. Dr. Floress is a Research Social Scientist with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station.

Kris Tiles. Kris is the Natural Resources Program Manager for UW-Madison Division of Extension.

Tony Johnson. Tony is an outreach specialist in the Regional Natural Resources Education Program and Maple Syrup Project manager in the Division of Extension at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kathy Smith. Kathy is the Director of the Ohio Woodland Stewards program, a full-time extension and outreach specialist for the School of Environment and Natural Resources, and a co-organizer of the EcoLab on the OSU-Mansfield campus.

Kate MacFarland. Kate is an Agroforester for the USDA National Agroforestry Center. She is part of the technical assistance and outreach team at the Center.

Matthew M. Smith, Ph.D.. Dr. Smith is the Research Program Lead and Acting Director for the USDA National Agroforestry Center. He also co-leads USDA’s Interagency Agroforestry Team.

Leslie Horner, Senior Personnel. Leslie is a Regional Extension Associate at Central State University for the Southeast Region of Ohio/Appalachian Ohio, and serves on the collaborative Ohio Interagency Forestry Team..

Stephanie Chizmar, Ph.D. Dr. Chizmar is a Research Economist with the USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station.