In this how-to guide, ecologist and forest farmer Steve Gabriel explores the philosophy and techniques behind silvopasture — integrating trees, animals, and forages in a whole-system approach that creates several benefits for livestock, farmers, and the environment. This system provides a sustainable farm income and holds the key to restoring land, building soil carbon, and creating climate resilience.
Gabriel shares examples of the diverse options silvopasture systems offer, including a black locust plantation for fence posts coupled with summer grazing pastures for cattle in central New York; Oxen and pigs used to clear forested land in New Hampshire to create space for new market gardens and orchards; Turkeys used for controlling pests and fertilization on a cider orchard and asparagus farm in New York; and Sheep that graze the understory of hybrid chestnut and hickory trees at a nut nursery in Minnesota. All of these examples share common goals, components, and philosophies. The systems may take several years to establish. Still, the long-term benefits include healthier animals and soils, greater yields, and the capacity to sequester atmospheric carbon better than forests or grasslands alone.
Silvopasture offers farmers an innovative and ecological alternative to conventional grazing practices for all these reasons and more.