Wisconsin’s first public agroforestry demonstration site was established in the summer of 2019 at Silverwood County Park in south-central Wisconsin (Figure 1). The 18-acre demonstration site features alley cropping, a variety of fruit and nut trees and shrubs, and a Tasting Orchard. This agroforestry demonstration farm will serve as a hands-on educational center for the park’s existing K-12 education program, adult workshops and classes, and for all park visitors through interpretive signs positioned around the site, as well as a training site for beginning agroforestry farmers.
The Silverwood Demonstration Farm is a collaborative venture between four partners, integrating government, non-profit, and private interests. Silverwood County Park is owned by Dane County Parks, with significant management responsibility assigned to Friends of Silverwood Park (FOSP), a nonprofit devoted to supporting the development and maintenance of Silverwood Park. Silverwood Park was established in 2001 when the late Irene Silverwood, a local high school teacher, donated her nearly 300-acre farm to Dane County's Parks Division with the expressed purpose of having it serve as an education and demonstration site for sustainable agricultural practices. Silverwood County Park is located at 771 Silver Lane outside Edgerton, Wisconsin.
The Silverwood Park Master Plan, adopted in 2016, reinforced the agricultural education mission of the park. A joint focus on education, research, and agricultural practice led to FOSP joining forces with the Savanna Institute, a nonprofit promoting the widespread adoption of agroforestry in the Midwest, to begin designing and installing agroforestry systems at the site in 2018 (Figure 2). In the spring of 2019, trees and shrubs were planted into an existing crop field that had previously been leased for organic no-till row crop production. Doudlah Farms LLC, the previous lessee of the site, expressed interest in the project and agreed to participate in an alley-cropping system demonstration in the field. After being involved throughout the planning process, Doudlah Farms planted a crop of organic no-till soybeans this season within the tree rows.
The large-scale plantings of tree and shrub crops consist of interplantings of chestnut and elderberry to demonstrate field-scale fruit and nut production and interplantings of black walnut and hybrid poplar trees to demonstrate field-scale timber and wood pulp production. Windbreaks of hybrid poplar have been planted along the edges of the field where it abuts neighboring crop fields, and elderberry and black currant have been planted in rows to demonstrate large-scale berry production. Tree holes were dug using a hand auger, and all chestnuts, oaks, and hybrid poplars were enclosed in translucent tree tubes.
The Tasting Orchard, planted within easy walking distance of the site parking lot, includes a wide variety of fruit and nut trees and shrubs encased in tree tubes or wire cages. Once mature, this high-diversity Tasting Orchard will display more than forty species of edible fruit and nut trees and shrubs that can be grown in Wisconsin. These plants will serve as a living library of woody crops, providing an invaluable educational resource for production growers and home gardeners and eventually providing tasting opportunities for park visitors (Figure 3).
The Silverwood Demonstration Farm has already hosted two field days in its 2019, the year of its establishment (Figure 4). On May 11th, attendees had the opportunity to learn about the long-term vision for the site, tour the existing plantings, and assist with the planting of the tasting orchard. On September 7th, representatives of the Savanna Institute, FOSP, and Doudlah Farms gathered to describe successes and challenges of the project’s first year, with a tour of existing plantings and a question-and-answer session with project partners. More field days are planned for 2020, and the demonstration farm is open to the public at all times.