The Problem of Agriculture

The current land-use paradigm of the Midwest: strict separation of agriculture and ecology.

Row-crop agriculture is the dominant land-use in the Midwest USA. Although extremely productive, row-crops are the primary contributor to the degradation of the region’s natural habitat, water quality, and rural communities.

  • Intensive soil disturbance and fossil fuel consumption contribute to climate change via multiple greenhouse gases.
  • Excessive nutrient and pesticide inputs result in drinking water contamination and hypoxia of waterways.
  • Landscape homogenization leaves little permanent habitat for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife.
  • Farm simplification leads to reliance on off-farm jobs, erosion of rural communities, and rural youth fleeing to the cities.

Incremental improvements to this prevailing system have been the primary focus of efforts to reduce these negative impacts: cover crops, low/no-till, precision management, organic management, etc. However, incremental approaches have proven insufficient to reverse greenhouse gas emissions and solve the ecological challenges of row crop agriculture. 

Instead, transformative solutions that address the problem OF agriculture, rather than the problems IN agriculture, are needed for resilient landscapes and vibrant rural economies.

Agroforestry: The Solution

Agroforestry practices can simultaneously restore ecological function to agricultural land while enhancing productivity.

Agroforestry constitutes a suite of intensive agricultural practices that integrate trees, crops & livestock. The most common agroforestry practices recognized by the US Department of Agriculture include:

Agroforestry practices can simultaneously restore ecological function to agricultural land while enhancing productivity.

  • The deep tree roots in agroforestry can provide a “safety-net” by catching fertilizer that leaches beyond the crop rooting depth or growing season.
  • The perennial habitat can foster robust ecologies on par with protected natural areas.
  • The stacking of crops can lead to “overyielding”, higher profits, and increased land-use efficiency.
  • The diversity of harvest and management activities in agroforestry can expand year-round employment opportunities at multiple skill levels, helping stabilize rural communities.

Our Work

Midwest Agroforestry Solutions establishes profitable agroforestry-focused farms across the Midwest USA. Our team of engineers, ecologists, and business specialists partners with farmers, landowners, and investors to establish farms centered around proven, profitable tree crops.

Our work leverages state-of-the-art science and methodologies developed and documented by the Savanna Institute, University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, University of Illinois Agroforestry4Food Program, European Union, European Agroforestry Federation, and other agroforestry leaders.

An example of a young agroforestry system in action on one of our farms – black currants and rhubarb alley cropped with hazelnuts in a permanent, regenerative system.