The fourth annual University of Missouri Agroforestry Academy will take more of a hands-on approach than in previous years, showcasing the benefits of adopting agroforestry practices on the farm.
This year’s academy, sponsored by the MU Center for Agroforestry, will run from July 24-29. Attendees will hear presentations from MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources faculty and other U.S. and Canadian experts. They will also travel to different farm sites and take part in a case study.
“We wanted to put a stronger focus on the hands-on activities this year,” said Michael Gold, associate director of the MU Center for Agroforestry. “The site visits are still going to be an important part of the academy, but we really wanted to showcase what agroforestry is all about with demonstrations and production tips.”
The Agroforestry Academy will feature 25 attendees from across the country, including 10 military veterans. Those veterans received a grant that pays for the weeklong academy.
Last year’s academy was the first to bring in veterans through the “Armed to Farm” program which was established through a competitive grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
“We’re happy to give back to our veterans,” Gold said. “They’ve earned this opportunity and we’re excited to bring 10 more in.”
A wide variety of topics will covered during the academy. Alley cropping, silvopasture, windbreaks, and riparian and upland buffers are just a few of the topics attendees will learn about. Agroforestry marketing and economics will also be discussed.
“We’ll show them how to graft, how to access the quality of soil, different methods for producing mushrooms and several other agroforestry practices,” Gold said. “We want them to see how agroforestry practices are done in a real-world setting.”
Attendees will tour the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin as well, looking at beekeeping, soil identification and tree planting.
The case study will take place at Altai Meadows, Jeff Cook’s family-run farm. The farm is located near Higbee, Mo. Altai Meadows is focused on producing excellent grass-fed and grass-finished beef – while still valuing the environment and their animals.
The attendees will be split into five groups and look over the farm. They will then develop a plan for the landowner and present it at the end of the week.
“The case study, focused on planning and design of agroforestry practices in a real-world setting, makes the academy more grounded in reality,” Gold said. “There are a lot of questions to answer, including what type of soil they have, if the landowner is familiar with animals or trees, if they have a background in marketing or finance, any specific issues of concern across the farm, long-term plans for the farm, etc.
“You have to build on all of that and see where the landowner wants to go in the future.”
Once this year’s academy is completed, the MU Center for Agroforestry will have trained nearly 110 individuals, over the course of four years, in agroforestry practices from across the country. The academy hosts individuals from Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, New York, Virginia and several other states this year.
“We need to continue to expand the agroforestry knowledge network,” Gold said. “We need to create a network of well-informed landowners and educators who are willing to share their agroforestry knowledge with others. We are training these landowners and educators, and we want them to be a resource in their communities.
“Year by year, we are growing this network. We’re also working to strengthen other parts of the country in agroforestry. We want that farmer-to-farmer connection.”