Throughout history, many bad practices have led to deforestation in many different regions, causing a variety of detrimental effects on the ecosystem and all those who inhabit it. Many American and European farmers now face the environmental challenges of the 21st century. This is why Jono Neiger — a farmer in Massachusetts — has opted for forest farming!
In an effort to find an innovative and productive solution to the bad practices that have been going on throughout history, Neiger has decided to follow the land-use principles described in The Land Ethic, a philosophical framework written by American conservationist Aldo Leopold. Neiger has planted American chestnut trees throughout his farm in order to facilitate multi-story cropping through forest farming. These chestnut trees were nearly extinct during the 20th century, and will now become the staple crop for this Massachusetts farm. Trees can be planted on hills and slopes where tillage agriculture is not possible, stabilizing the land, as well as offering valuable food production!
Benefits of Forest Farming
By bringing the forest and the farm together, Neiger seeks to maintain the quality production of a wide variety of food products and create an excellent environment in which domestic and wild animals can thrive. This method helps re-establish the American chestnut species, reforest the farmland, and maintain production without the destructive effects of bad land-use practices. As he waits for the chestnut trees to grow and mature, this farmer will also be growing elderberries, pawpaws, and persimmons on his land. The trees will protect the soil from erosion, provide a stable supply of chestnuts, and create an environment where multi-story cropping can thrive.
As estimated by the Center for International Forestry Research, merely 14 animal species and 12 plant species make up 98% of the world’s agriculture. Excessive soil tilling, synthetic fertilizers, and deforestation lead to dangerous CO2 emissions making agriculture one of the main global warming contributors. It’s the initiative of farmers such as Neiger that give us hope for better land-use practices and regenerative agriculture in the future!