Forest Farming: What's It All About?
Our region includes many privately owned forests, interspersed with family farms and small communities. The forests are comprised of valuable sawtimber-sized hardwoods mixed with maturing conifer plantations. From this mix of environmental and social conditions come unique opportunities for families to derive income from timber harvesting, forest farming, and other special forest projects. Mismanagement of forests can lead to declining forest health, loss of economic benefits, poor water quality, and reduced wildlife habitat.
Making better use of our natural resources
Forest farming is a more comprehensive use of forested land. It encourages sustainable natural resource management because the forest must remain healthy and intact to optimize production. This lesson is now being learned in the tropical rainforest regions of the world. In the Northeast, more and more land becomes forested each year. Farms have become less numerous and rural landowners often strive to reforest their property. Many mature hardwood forests have been harvested without regard to long-term forest health. If more forest owners farm their woodlots, decisions about timber will take a longer-term and more sustainable perspective.
Who came up with the idea of forest farming?
Anthropologists and historians have cited numerous examples of how forests were managed to produce berry and nut crops by the Iroquois and Algonquin for thousands of years. Even during the colonial period of American history, forests were extensive and herbal crops were harvested for international markets. Today, research and education from the Cooperative Extension System is helping more and more forest owners get started in forest farming.
Ken Estes Jr.
Agriculture Program Leader
Last updated March 7, 2023