YHD Blogs — An Unsung Agricultural Hero: Silvopasture

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Ainslie Young  

     As many current agricultural practices are wildly unsustainable and unethical, the urgent climate crisis and a need for more environmentally friendly agronomic techniques have led to the rediscovery of old farming concepts. Among these techniques is silvopasture, a diverse way of farming that could be an answer to creating sustainable agriculture for the future.

     So how does silvopasture work? This method of farming involves integrating trees with livestock as opposed to an open pasture. Farmers can either plant new trees on previous grazing lands or use pre-existing woodlands/orchards on their property. The trees must be far apart enough to allow sunlight through to let the grass grow, but numerous enough that there are significant patches of shade for hot days and protection from storms and wind. Remaining woodland that is too dense for silvopastures can also be re-purposed for other farming resources (such as tapping trees for syrup or growing mushrooms).

     Although implementing agroforestry techniques might seem like only a small change, the benefits it provides are unbelievably numerous and impactful. From a climate-related, environmental perspective, silvopastures increase the wildlife abundance and the overall biodiversity of pastures and improve both water quality and lessen harmful runoff into nearby rivers/streams. Most importantly, the additional trees and improved soil quality can contribute to carbon sequestration (the removal/capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere), therefore reducing greenhouse gasses emitted by animals and the farm itself. Silvopasture has even been rated the top 9th climate solution by Project Drawdown (a large non-profit working on climate mitigation). And the advantages silvopastures bring are not just sustainability-related – animal welfare is drastically improved as trees provide both shade/protection from elements and better-quality forage food and a farmers’ source of income can be diversified and increased.

     Despite being a concept around for centuries, as well as a scientifically researched and acclaimed technique of farming, Silvopasture as an agronomic method has yet to gain enough traction in influential