Program Specialist, Value Added Agriculture
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach
If you are interested in some interesting ways to make your acreage pay a few bills and perhaps have a little fun along the way, the free publication, Profitable Farms and Woodlands: A Practical Guide in Agroforestry for Landowners, Farmers and Ranchers is available as a download or in soft-cover print form from a cooperating service provider. Written and compiled by Joshua Idassi, a natural resources specialist at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Cooperative Extension Program, Greensboro, North Carolina; the 85-page work includes the contributions of 12 highly recognized extension professionals from across the United States and was supported and released by the USDA National Agroforestry Center, Lincoln, Nebraska in 2012.
The guide is organized along the general headings of alley cropping, forest farming, riparian buffers strips, silvopasture and windbreaks. These advantages and challenges of each practice are discussed and what it takes to establish them, but the real value lies in the interesting and varied case studies discussed. For example, there are real-world articles on blue-grass hay and pecan alley cropping; hardwood logs for a Shitake mushroom farming; wild and cultivated medicinal plants; maple syrup production, bee keeping, or shelter belts for privacy, environmental improvement or profit; and a number of others.
An overarching theme of the case studies is, “Start small, then grow, feel free to make mistakes and learn from them.” If you have a set-back while working the bugs out of your system, it should not be catastrophic. Most forest-farming and similar permaculture-type management projects are well suited to this type of strategy. Begin as a hobbyist and as your experience and passion grows; so too will your research into consumer preference, available markets, unique marketing approaches and similar business-development skills.
For further assistance and information, full contact information is provided for the authors, contributors, relevant on-line courses, reference publications and supporting organizations. These include the USDA National Agroforestry Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Forest Service, in cooperation with specialist extension programs at 1862 and 1890 Land-Grant universities. These include: the University of Missouri Agroforestry Center, Florida A&M University, Tennessee State University, North Carolina University Extension, The University of Georgia, Alcorn State University, and Alabama A&M University. A list comprehensive list of USDA-FSA (Farm Service Agency) and USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) financial- and technical-assistance programs (CRP, CCRP, CREP, Equip, Whip, CSP) available to landowners is included with links to the program descriptions.