Some berry and nut crops can be grown in wooded areas.

group examining mushrooms found in the forest

Examining mushrooms from the forest

Collection of sap from trees


Agroforestry is defined as the combination of agriculture and forestry practices that create more integrated, diverse, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems. In the Northeastern U.S., agroforestry practices include sustainable woodlot management, as well as the use of woodlands for raising shade-grown crops such as American ginseng, mushrooms and maple syrup, nuts, fruits, and wood products. Click here to learn more about agroforestry and forest farming. Click here for a YouTube video on growing American ginseng.

Forest Farming: What's It All About?

Much of our region is dominated by privately owned forests, interspersed with family farms and small communities. The forests are comprised of valuable saw timber-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.

Last updated October 16, 2020