Government planning documents are not what you would usually find on my reading stand. But this one from the USDA is an exception. For one thing, it is written in clear, pleasant English, so that the people who paid for it – taxpayers like you and me – can actually understand it. For another, it speaks to the enterprise the BOP is all about: promoting the field of agroforestry, which they define as: intentionally combining agriculture and forestry (trees!) to create integrated land-use systems.
It acknowledges that this ancient tradition provides multiple benefits including social, environmental, health and economic benefits. It also acknowledges that though agroforestry has been used for generations around the world, it had lost favor in America over the decades as we turned to mono-cultures. This report says it is time to reclaim it. It calls for three goals: greater education and adoption of agroforestry practices in America; more research to enhance the knowledge and success of agroforestry; and integration, that is, establishing formal policies and practices that promote and enhance the use of agroforestry.
While the study envisions agroforestry in mostly rural or large farm venues, we in the urban agroforestry arena can read ourselves into this expanding picture, and work to ultimately have urban agroforestry be added to the official USDA vision.
They are only half way through this strategic framework. I imagine there will be an updated one at the end of 2016. Between now and then, we can make facts on the ground with the dozens of other newly created urban orchard and food forest programs around the country, so that urban agroforestry becomes an official component of our government’s national agricultural and environmental vision.
You can find the complete USDA Agroforestry Strategic Framework 2011-2016 here.