According to the USDA, Forest Farming is, “the cultivation of high-value specialty crops under the protection of a forest canopy that has been modified to provide the correct shade level.”
Before forest farming was “a thing,” it was just an everyday practice. There is evidence to suggest that Native Americans cleared out and planted small gardens in their forests. And many traditional cultures have valued the biodiversity and cultivated it in these areas. It’s only recently that forests have been mainly considered production sites for timber. However, now landowners are seeing the value in growing different species of plants and animals under the forest canopy. (Farming the Woods)
So is it really sustainable? That all depends. If the farmers are conscious of the land they’re harvesting, if they’re growing a wide variety of crops and not using pesticides to do it— we think that’s pretty sustainable! What’s great about this practice is that it’s keeping trees and native forests around, which is great for carbon sequestration and also for keeping local ecosystems in tact.
Have a forest you’d like to farm yourself? The How, When and Why of Forest Farming site is chocked full of information just waiting for you to dig into. And for great videos tips and insights into forest farming, visit the Forest Farming YouTube page.