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Forest Farming to the Forefront

So we’re here at the Arnot Forest in central New York, not far from Ithaca and we’re in the midst of a two
day working retreat titled Forest Farming to the Forefront
focusing on developing roadmaps for the northeastern
US This is about the future. There are a lot of issues at play and this is about coming together to talk about what we might do down the road to address some of those challenges but then also capitalize on the opportunities. The objective of the meeting really is to
gather and celebrate forest farming but also work, you know, put some pen to paper in terms of addressing the issues and have that critical dialogue so that we
have some sense or idea about how to move forward and continue to advance forest farming as an agroforestry practice in the temperate forests of the Northeast. All these products are extremely
important to ecology of the forests in the Northeast and some examples we’re considering are fiddlehead ferns and medicinal herbs such as ginseng,
goldenseal but also mushroom products that be
cultivated on logs underneath the forest canopy along with
ramps another important product culturally speaking but also ecologically speaking and thats really part of the
focus is the importance of these plant populations. This has
got to be one the coolest groups of people that I have
worked with because everybody has an expertise and experiences with these products and these plants and
they’re all looking at it from different perspectives right, so there’s
some people are looking at from a social side and some people are
looking at it from a commercial side but we all love these plants and these products and we want to really figure out how to sustain them into the future from different experiences and different perspectives. We have a
collection of people who have a vast amount of experience in forest farming. Everyone here is an expert in one way or another and it’s just a wonderful opportunity for me to get together with these people that I don’t see very often. This is a our main laying yard and I really
like it because it has several characteristics
that make for a good laying yard, one of which is year-round shade. So the mushroom research is really exciting. We’re growing shiitake mushrooms and comparing
different tree species for the log substrate things like that. We’re
growing a relatively new species that hasn’t been marketed very much called lion’s mane. It’s a beautiful mushroom that we’ve been very successful with. We’re looking at developing more branding around sustainably grown forest farmed ginseng that can be sold here domestically to processors and herb companies and always you
know just trying to find ways for the whole suite of non-timber forest products that you can produce that really
make it profitable for the grower. There’s so many opportunities for us
right now because many of the herbs that grow in our forests many are imported from other countries
and they’re wild harvested right now and they’re not considered of much value. If we forest farm them and we show that we can produce a
consistent product, that we can help conserve our native plants by cultivating these same plants in a forest
farming system, I think that we can help improve the
quality of product that is fed into the system while at the same time
supporting forest farmers. We’re exchanging some ideas and learning some
new things and it’s really helping to put a
focus on forest farming and see where – where can we
go with this? Is it economically viable? Do we have the resources to to go forward and do research
if we need to do research? So we’re exploring some of those really kinda hard
questions. I’d like to see more people doing multiple things. I know it gets a little difficult at times to be very diverse, but I think that’s what our forest have to offer is diversity and we should embrace that and immerse ourselves in it. I hope what comes out of this more than anything is that we really get government support you now, you know, I mean forest farming is kind of a .001 on the scale of all the funding that goes into the agricultural industry even if we can get
10 percent 15 percent of that pie, it could have tremendous effect on global food security, I mean climate change. These plants have more
of a capacity to supply food and adapt and so I feel like, I really
hope that with the momentum of this meeting that some of the clear ideas and obstacles and opportunities are gonna come to fruition for more government support. For the future of forest farming I would hope that knowledge continues to increase in order to do it
in a sustainable manner but also in a manner that promotes safety
of the product, quality of the product – some people are
getting interested in forest farming before they’re getting all the knowledge that’s necessary to
collect the proper plants in their prime condition from the
forest as well as how to properly plant them to be
successful before they lose interest in producing. So I would hope for forest farming for people to continue to collaborate to make that information more available to larger populations. What I’m finding out is that there’s a lot
of experts in the fields of forest farming and that it’s you know there’s a lot of
opportunity for environmental stewardship to happen with the production of food
within those forests and that’s a better way for a lot of us to probably think
about how we want to manage our forests for the future not just for timber and for wood products for non-timber forest products as well. We get a ton of landowners who have woods and want to know what they can do other than just harvest timber, so I think there’s just lots of people interested in the possibilities and we have to do our job to kind of tell those stories and paint a realistic
picture of what people should expect as they think about these things. I think coming out of this meeting it’s
exciting to think about having both concrete next steps for outreach and education and also for longer-term research goals and really finding ways to share information about forest farming with
landowners all over across the eastern US and see what kind of an opportunity can be both for conservation and for economic development.


  1. Botanical Dimensions Author

    Great video presentation of the issues on such an important topic. Thanks to the varied experts and organizers for furthering the discussion and action.

  2. Medi Kouhai Author

    Hehe, y'all are teases. Sounds amazing…will we maybe get any of the talks here online?

    Here in WA, (slightly different question, but I'm curious how it meets agroforestry), I've been talking with small famland owners (say, 20-50 acres) who've told me there are federal handling guidelines being seriously considered that would mandate a cost in safety certification, regardless of facility size, which would force most smaller owners to sell their land. Is this a genuinely national issue?; how does it affect affect the growth of agroforestry if so?


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