Connecticut’s office of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded Wilhelm Farm a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) that began on March 1, 2017 (NRCS CIG: 69-1106-17-56). The grant’s purpose is developing demonstrations of silvopasture and related perennial plant production systems. The demonstrations will be used by NRCS and other er outreach specialists and by practicing landowners. The demonstrations include web pages, videos and social media with a broad reach and traditional on-site demonstrations.
Most of America’s farm and forest lands are held in small ownerships, and this is especially true in Connecticut. Connecticut has over 2.2 million acres of farm and forest. While there are few large ownerships, which are critical sources of food and fiber supply, but about one-third of farms and almost 90% of forest ownership are between one and nine acres in size virtually allof which are family owned. Small ownerships individually are not critical to our food or fiber supply, which is why they often are ignored. In aggregate, however, they provide local food, raw materials and critical environmental services. Effective demonstrations will encourage thousands of small farm and forest owners to adopt silvopasture and other agroforestry technologies.
Small ownerships face the same challenges and opportunities of changing markets that influence all small businesses. On one hand, markets are more global: consumers may obtain food and timber products from around the globe, making it difficult for small landowners to compete. On the other hand, movements to eat locally and support local businesses create niche markets that service specific consumers.
Climate change is an even more powerful global challenge to landowners. Hotter summers, warmer winters and more extreme weather events will affect what Connecticut grows as well as production practices. Integrated farming systems are needed. Flexible but dynamic systems enable landowners to cope with rapid changes in climate and consequent disturbances to political-economic systems. The importance of a regional food system and a resilient landscape cannot be overstated as the country prepares for climate change and other perturbations.
Wilhelm Farm demonstrates the economic and non-economic benefits of family farm and forest ownership. Its webpages and videos are viewed by small farm and forest owners across Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. The demonstrations help families better achieve their goals as landowners.
See our Final Report for more information on the project (Link here). Other demonstration resources are:
Other Links and References can be found on these webpages: