Down to Earth

Most of the American Midwest was once a vast savanna, an open grassland with abundant trees and wildlife. As the land was converted to agriculture many of the trees were lost, and with them went countless benefits to the landscape, to air and water, soil health, and wildlife. The practice of agroforestry allows farmers to return those benefits to their land –– and provides profit opportunities and increased carbon sequestration. We talk to Keefe Keeley, executive director of the Savanna Institute about how farmers can get started using trees to their advantage.

Photo credit: The Savanna Institute

2’09 what is agroforestry
3’36 the relationship between agroforestry and the ecosystems they exist on—working with rather than against nature
5’21 perennial polyculture that includes animals, domestic and/or wild
8’32 example of agroforestry: alley cropping
10’16 silvopasture––grazing with trees
11’54 collaboration with the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry
12’49 the benefits of trees for livestock
15’17 incorporating livestock into orchards
18’06 the role of agroforestry in reducing chemical inputs
20’34 pollinators in diverse ecosystems
21’16 how you can get started
22’44 looking at the long term economics of doing it—and not doing it
24’09 the role of the Savanna Institute in sharing knowledge among farmers
24’51 what is the savanna ecosystem
27’44 human beings are integral to ecosystems; understanding ourselves as part of nature, and our farms as ecoysystems
30’21 the importance of restoration as part of the big picture, not just little niches here and there—especially agricultural landscapes
32’20 restoring bison and livestock to the land
33’33 the changes in mindset required…going from “maximizing” to “optimizing”
35’11 virtually all land is suitable for agroforestry, and the practices are scalable
38’39 the role of agroforestry in local and regional food systems—and strengthening our large-scale food systems
41’01 commercialization of crops to open markets and opportunities
42’37 demonstration farm network in the Midwest…answering the difficult questions
44’23 financial assistance available through NRCS to get started, but it’s sometimes tricky to access because of lack of knowledge
50’47 savannainstitute.org