Rodale Institute and Propagate are pleased to announce a new strategic partnership to promote agroforestry. The goal of the partnership is to increase the adoption of agroforestry and tree crop systems in North America.

As part of the agreement, new agroforestry educational hubs will be established at the Institute’s research sites in eastern Pennsylvania. The demonstration farms serve multiple purposes: to raise awareness, provide education on regenerative agriculture practices, and provide opportunities to advance research. Planting is expected to begin in Fall 2024.

Planting new agroforestry systems on farms is a win for farmers and our planet. Agroforestry systems introduce additional streams of income for farmers and boost the resilience of their operations. Increasing the number of farms across the country is also crucial to the health of the food system and climate stability. Regenerative practices like agroforestry promote overall soil health, store carbon in soils and woody biomass accumulation, improve water quality, promote biodiversity, and support pollinators — creating a more sustainable future for food production.

“Agroforestry is a critical tool for farmers and ranchers to improve both agricultural land and the environment,” said Rodale Institute CEO Jeff Tkach. “Through our collective work, Rodale Institute and Propagate will further develop innovative research and expand producers’ access to actionable data that enables their adoption of regenerative practices.”

Despite the economic and ecological advantages, agroforestry only makes up 1% of agricultural land. This is due to several factors, including a lack of educational resources and financial support. The Rodale Institute and Propagate partnership is uniquely positioned to address these barriers to adoption.

“Agroforestry can make a positive impact on our environment and create more stability for farms through profit and resilience. However, a lack of education and financing continue to limit adoption,” said Propagate CEO and Co-Founder, Ethan Steinberg. “We need regional examples where farmers can gather and learn, paired with financial incentives that make land transitions feasible. This partnership will make resources available to farms helping to solve both of these challenges.”

“There is a rapidly growing interest in agroforestry as farmers and researchers begin to understand all of the benefits that come from incorporating trees into a production system,” said Rodale Institute scientist Dr. Leigh Archer. “The Institute’s goal is to stay on the cutting edge of agroforestry research and develop tools and resources to help farmers interested in incorporating agroforestry practices. Propagate has emerged as a leader in agroforestry design and implementation, and collaborating with their team will allow us to both have a greater impact on increasing the understanding and uptake of agroforestry across the country.”

Propagate brings an ability to design, implement, and finance agroforestry projects using its proprietary software (Overyield), a network of farm services providers, and financing mechanisms to overcome the upfront cost of planting, such as the Expanding Agroforestry Program grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rodale Institute brings its expansive research and consultancy capacity to support the success of these projects. The nonprofit’s team provides agronomic consulting and valuable feedback regarding the outcomes of crop yields, profitability, soil health, and water quality. Agroforestry practices are currently being planted and evaluated by farms in partnership with major corporations, real asset managers, and privately owned or operated farms.

Looking ahead, the partners plan to expand on what is learned in the initial demonstration sites and develop more projects throughout the Eastern United States. Both Propagate and Rodale Institute are committed to the success of these educational hubs, and any farms in the region that choose to explore the application of agroforestry practices on their land. Research at the sites will focus on the environmental outcomes as well as the economic returns for farmers.

Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to growing the regenerative organic agriculture movement through rigorous research, farmer training, and education. Our groundbreaking science and direct farmer support programs serve as a catalyst for change in farming and food production worldwide. Over our 75-year history, we have proven that organic farming is not only viable but essential to humanity’s survival.

Propagate is a software, project development, and financing ecosystem that makes it easy for farms to transition acreage to agroforestry. They provide access to agronomic insights, technical assistance, and financing so that farms can reduce risk while integrating fruit, nut, and timber trees with animal or crop farming systems. Propagate currently advises 50,000+ acres of agroforestry, supporting over 3,000,000 trees & shrubs. Propagate also actively manages over 2,500 commercial acres and growing, through its regional agroforestry hubs in NY and KY.