Agroforestry: Farms and Forests Working as One

This is part three of our five-part Farm Gate series about agricultural projects that are supported by the ALUS Peel Pilot and Peel Rural Water Quality Program. Other articles in this series are: The Best Defense is a Good Fence and Keeping Soil in its Place: Funding for Erosion Control.

One of the most important actions private landowners can take is tree planting. Farm properties offer many opportunities for tree planting, but how can farmers provide land for trees without losing valuable farmland and threatening the sustainability of our agricultural sector?

The answer is agroforestry. This is the careful planning and integration of trees and shrubs into farming systems to create environmental and social benefits, while leaving the most productive farmland intact and improving overall farm productivity and resilience.

The ALUS Peel Pilot, an extension of the Peel Rural Water Quality Program, offers funding to farmers to restore natural features to their lands. Two examples of projects that can be used to improve farming systems through agroforestry are:

A pond buffered by plants in front of a farm field next to a barn.
An example of a restored riparian buffer showing healthy grasses, shrubs and new trees growing along the edge of a pond.

1. Riparian buffers are vegetated areas next to watercourses. They provide water quality benefits by reducing erosion and runoff, and significantly improve wildlife habitat. In an agroforestry system, riparian buffers can provide the additional benefit of stabilizing banks – preventing the collapse and eroding away of valuable farmland.

Wetland and forest next to a farm field.
An example of a dense block planting on marginal land next to a productive crop field.

2. Block planting is simply the establishment of trees across an area (often a square or rectangular block). This method provides the environmental and social benefits of forest cover; like improved air and water quality, and the block formation makes it easy to maintain. In an agroforestry system, a block planting might be sited on marginal land or fragile land to create habitat for beneficial insects that help control crop pests, increase soil organic matter and prevent further soil erosion.

Through the ALUS Peel program, farmers receive annual payments to establish, maintain and monitor on-farm stewardship projects. The program is available to farmers within the Region of Peel. Other funding sources for tree planting are available outside of Peel. If you have a tree planting project in mind, contact our team today.

Learn about some of the soil health best management practices that landowners can use to help keep soil in its place in our five-part series on soil health.

Scroll to Top