Farmers are stewards of our nation’s land, shaping rural landscapes and impacting environments. As such, agriculture, forests, and forestry are closely linked. Here are some of the ways farmers work with trees to create economic, social, and environmental benefits:
Orchards, groves, and tree farming: The U.S. has over 5.6 million acres of orchard land, where farmers cultivate everything from apples to oranges to almonds to chestnuts. There are also over 4 million acres of maple groves producing maple syrup, and nearly 400,000 acres planted in Christmas trees. Beyond this, the U.S. is a major producer of timber, harvested from both large-scale commercial operations and smaller family farms.
Agroforestry: Agroforestry systems combine trees with other cultivated crops for both environmental and economic benefits. Under these systems, trees are often planted around the edges of fields or in between crop rows to serve as windbreaks, benefit soil health, create shaded microclimates, or prevent soil erosion and water runoff. Trees, when harvested for fruit, timber, or other products, can serve as additional sources of income for farmers, while increasing wildlife biodiversity.
Conservation and recreation: Many farmers maintain private forests on their land for conservation or recreational purposes, such as hunting or fishing. Farmers often participate in conservation initiatives, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, which enables them to remove environmentally sensitive land from crop production and plant species to improve environmental health.