Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) has been awarded $729,408 from the Edwards Mother Earth Foundation to improve agroforestry technical assistance. This inter-regional, train the trainer project will take place in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast, and will focus on forest farming, alley cropping and silvopasture training to meet the growing needs of farmers seeking to adopt these practices. One of only four projects selected for funding nationwide, this further illustrates ASD’s leadership in the sustainable agriculture sector, the organization said in a news release.

Farmers are increasingly interested in agroforestry, but when they reach out to agricultural technical service providers (TSPs) for assistance, there’s often a lack of knowledge or capacity related to agroforestry. This makes it difficult for farmers to implement agroforestry practices. Without dedicated agroforestry funding and training, agricultural TSPs have been left without critical tools and knowledge needed to fully support farmers seeking to adopt agroforestry practices. TSPs interested in agroforestry have also struggled to find networks to share similar professional interests, discouraging continued training or networking in agroforestry. In turn, there has been a nationwide hesitancy to provide agroforestry technical assistance or approve agroforestry practices for financial assistance programs.

To improve these issues and increase agroforestry adoption, ASD’s agroforestry department will lead a two-year project in collaboration with the following partners: Interlace Commons, Savanna Institute, Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the USDA National Agroforestry Center. This inter-regional collaboration will provide virtual agroforestry learning and in-person trainings at demonstration sites in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast. Project partners have collectively provided agroforestry technical assistance and training for decades. Each year, they receive more requests for technical assistance than they can meet.

“Producers and landowners are increasingly interested in agroforestry for its economic, environmental and social benefits, such as climate resilience, crop diversification, food access and more. By creating a trained network of agroforestry technical service providers, we are providing farmers with the assistance they need to successfully implement agroforestry practices on their land. Our goal is to create a replicable train the trainer model that can be expanded around the country,” said ASD Agroforestry Program Director Katie Commender.

Project focus areas will include forest farming, alley cropping and silvopasture, with room for expansion to other agroforestry practices over time. Trainings will be made available to public, private and nonprofit technical service providers, K-12 educators and farmers interested in implementing agroforestry practices. Intentional justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts will be made to actively engage people from diverse communities.

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