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What Is Agroforestry?

Agroforestry can be a key tool for farmers, ranchers, woodland owners, communities, and others who want to use sustainable strategies that enhance agricultural practices and protect natural resources.  According to the National Agroforestry Center, Agroforestry is the intentional mixing of trees and shrubs into crop and/or animal production systems to create environmental, economic and social benefits.”
(See the National Agroforestry Center’s Info sheet “What is agroforestry?”). 

Agroforestry can be thought of as “Working Trees” planted in strategic locations, and with structural designs to address natural resource concerns and provide a variety of economic and social benefits.  Additional information can be found on the Agroforestry Strategic Framework fact sheet. (PDF; 1.8 MB)

Some common agroforestry practices are listed below:



 Agroforestry Practices


 Alley Cropping


 Multi-Storied Cropping (sometimes used for cultivation of specialized forest products)


 Windbreak and Shelterbelt Establishment




 Windbreak and Shelterbelt Renovation


By choosing to include Agroforestry practices into your production systems, you can capture many benefits.  Agroforestry can diversify your income, provide erosion control, reduce impacts on air and water quality, improve the health of your soil, provide habitat for wildlife, and provide forage and shelter for your livestock. 

This is 311 Alley Cropping

311 Alley Cropping
311 Alley Cropping requires the planting of trees in rows with wide spacing between rows creating alley ways within which companion crops are grown.  These Companion crops can be conventional, such as corn or soybeans, or unconventional like bioenergy crops or elderberries for wine. 
(see USDA’s Inside Agroforestry Vol. 19 issue 2)

379 Multi-Story Cropping

Multi-Story Cropping Sketch

379 Multi-Storied Cropping is often call Forest Farming where the overstory trees are managed for one set of products (such as nuts, fruits or lumber) and the understory vegetation or fungi is managed for other products (such and floral greens, Holiday ornamental and decorative products, handicraft materials, botanical and medicinal herbs, and edible foods.  (See USDA’s Agroforestry Note 7, Forest Farming: An Agroforestry Practice)


380 Windbreak and Shelterbelt

Farmstead Windbreak
380 Windbreak and Shelterbelt Establishment and 650 Windbreak and Shelterbelt Renovation are single or multiple rows of trees and shrubs constructed in linear fashion to form a structure to control impacts from wind, reduce noise, odor, and improve visual aesthetics of an operation.  Windbreaks/Shelterbelts can also reduce soil erosion, protect farmsteads, livestock, wildlife and plants, create a microenvironment to improve plant growth, manage snow deposition, and increase carbon storage and reduce energy use in buildings. 
(See USDA’s Agroforestry Notes 1 - 4, Inside Agroforestry Vol. 20, Issue 1, PNW 0005 Trees Against the Wind)

381 Silvopasture Establishment 

Silvopasture Establishment
 381 Silvopasture Establishment is designed to produce high value timber products while providing short term cash flow from livestock production.  Silvopasture as a practice will establish a compatible combination of trees and shrubs with livestock forages on the same acres.  Silvopasture requires the deliberate and intensive management of three systems simultaneously: timber, forage and livestock. 
(see Agroforestry Notes 8, 9, 18, 22, 26, 28, 29, 31, and Working Trees Info Sheet-What is Silvopasture)

Alley Cropping Resources:

Multi-Storied Cropping Resources:

Windbreak and Shelterbelt Resources:

Silvopasture Resources:


Agroforestry References from our National Agroforestry Center and other Conservation partners.