Nebraska Farmer Logo

Farmstead Forest: About 11,000 surveys went out to farmers and ranchers across the U.S.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

February 17, 2022

3 Min Read
Aerial view of farm land
SURVEY SAYS: How much are agroforestry practices such as windbreaks, riparian buffers and forest farming used these days? A new survey sent out to 11,000 farmers and ranchers across the country seeks to answer that question.bruev/Getty Images

The National Agroforestry Survey was mailed out to a sample of 11,000 farmers and ranchers across the U.S. in February, asking them about the types of agroforestry practices they use and how they use these practices.

The project, conducted as a cooperative effort with the USDA National Agroforestry Center and National Agricultural Statistics Service, will help researchers and agroforestry staff understand how farmers and ranchers are using practices such as windbreaks, silvopasture, riparian forest buffers, alley cropping, and forest farming and multistory cropping.

“Very limited information is available on how prevalent agroforestry is in the U.S. and, more specifically, which practices are utilized,” says Nicholas Streff, regional director at the Northern Plains field office of NASS in Lincoln, Neb., which is collecting the data for the project. “The goal of the survey is to measure the use of these different agroforestry practices by farmers and ranchers.”

For NAC purposes, here are the five practices being surveyed and their definitions:

1. Windbreaks, shelterbelts and hedgerows. These are considered linear rows of trees and shrubs used to create a more favorable environment for soils, crops, livestock, wildlife and people.

2. Silvopasture. This is the deliberate integration of trees and grazing livestock operations on the same land.

Related:How to choose apple tree varieties to plant

3. Riparian forest buffers. This is an area adjacent to a stream, river, lake or wetland that contains a combination of trees and shrubs and is often used for erosion control, bank stabilization and nutrient runoff control.

4. Alley cropping. This is the cultivation of crops or forages between rows of trees or shrubs. Orchards and tree plantations are considered alley cropping if crops or forages are grown and harvested between rows of trees.

5. Forest farming and multistory cropping. This is the deliberate cultivation of crops under a canopy of trees, with the canopy often modified to provide levels of light that favor growth and enhanced production of the understory crops.

Survey says

Producers included in this survey are those who noted they used forest buffers, windbreaks or forest farming on the most recent Census of Agriculture. Mailed in early February, the surveys are to be completed by early April, with responses given online by entering a unique survey code from the questionnaire, or by mailing the responses back using a prepaid envelope provided.

The information collected will be used by NAC to create and release reports, Streff says. Results will be included in a series of publications posted by NAC and will be available later in 2022.

According to a USDA survey fact sheet, the survey offers producers an opportunity to provide a more “complete and accurate picture of the 21st century innovative practices they use on their lands and in their operations.”

The fact sheet also says, “By documenting the significant efforts made by America’s ag producers to sustainably manage natural resources while producing the food, fuel and fiber the world requires, respondents help ensure continued support for and funding of programs that protect livelihoods and ensure resources for future generations.”

The information gathered through these surveys is being used for statistical purposes only, and in accordance with federal law, responses will be kept confidential and will not be disclosed in identifiable form.

Find results of the surveys later this year posted at

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like