Founded in June 2019 at a meeting of 30 agroforestry enthusiasts and other natural resource professionals/conservationists in Farmington, New Mexico, the Southwest Agroforestry Action Network (SWAAN) is the youngest of the nine current regional agroforestry working groups recognized by AFTA. Despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 (including cancellation of our first conference in spring 2020 in Tucson, Arizona), SWAAN continues to thrive with regular quarterly virtual programs, collaborations, and many other activities. To continue advancing under prevailing uncertainty, our next meeting will be “hybrid” (in-person and virtual), in Moab, Utah, May 10-12, 2022. Our 2023 annual conference will be in Colorado. All SWAAN’s quarterly programs are recorded and available for viewing on our website.
We believe one of SWAAN’s greatest strengths is the “big tent” approach to agroforestry as described by Jim Allen, the first Chair of SWAAN’s Executive Committee. This broad scope approach is clear in the agroforestry practitioners and practices recognized by SWAAN:
- Agricultural producers, who utilize the five traditional USDA practices (alley cropping, forest farming/multi-story cropping, riparian forest buffers, silvopasture, and windbreaks/shelterbelts)
- Indigenous peoples
- Settlers on Spanish & Mexican Land Grants
- “Food forests” in community/urban areas*
*SWAAN is pleased that “Urban Food Forests and Community Agroforestry Systems”, is now recognized as an agroforestry practice in the third edition of North American Agroforestry (Garrett, H.E.G, Jose, S., and Gold, M.A., John Wiley & Sons, 2022).
SWAAN’s geographic scope is very broad too, including private, tribal, federal, county, and municipal lands in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Moreover, SWAAN has connected with other organizations and people who have similar interests in other arid to semi-arid Western regions, including Texas, Washington, California, and Mexico. For example, in early 2021, SWAAN partnered with the Quivira Coalition and jointly hosted two virtual “Silvopasture Listening Sessions” which highlighted livestock producers from Texas and Washington. SWAAN maintains a roster of about 100 participants and communicates with them regularly about upcoming programs, meetings, and also shares agroforestry information from AFTA, and other organizations (e.g., European Agroforestry Federation, USDA National Agroforestry Center, University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, Savanna Institute).
SWAAN’s programs and activities are guided by a charter (approved March 2020) that established an executive committee whose current members are: Chair, Steve Price, Utah State University Extension; Chair-elect, Donna Davis, Colorado State Forest Service; Immediate Past Chair, Jim Allen, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University; At-large member, Mick O’Neill, Professor of Agronomy, Emeritus, New Mexico State University; and Secretary-Treasurer, Andy Mason, U.S. Forest Service (retired). The leadership of SWAAN rotates through our four states (AZ, CO, NM, UT) with the change of location of the annual conference. SWAAN appreciates the support we have received since our founding – and continue to receive – from the USDA National Agroforestry Center (Susan Stein, Rich Straight, and Kate MacFarland) and New Mexico Highlands University (Kent Reid, Kyle Rose, and Alan Horton).
A key factor in SWAAN’s success is its affiliation with the Arizona Community Tree Council (ACTC) and their Executive Director, Bev Babb. ACTC is a 501c3 non-profit organization additionally serving SWAAN’s fiscal sponsor. Moreover, Bev manages our meeting registrations, developed and maintains our webpages, and hosts our quarterly virtual programs. Mick O’Neill and Andy Mason ensure that our programs are eligible for continuing education credits (Agronomy Society of America, Society of American Foresters, and sometimes International Society of Arboriculture) and Bev tracks participant credits.
Other examples of SWAAN’s quarterly programs include regionally specific topics such as:
- Desert-Adapted Nurse Plants and Agaves in Climate-Friendly Perennial Polycultures for Southwest Agroforestry Initiatives, Gary Nabhan, University of Arizona.
- Woody food Crops for Southwestern Agroforestation Practices, Dr. Youping Sun and Reagan Wytsalucy, Utah State University.
SWAAN also welcomes presenters from other regions about agroforestry such as:
- Nebraska: Sustainable Community Food Landscapes Sharing Successes Omaha Permaculture, Gus von Roenn and Graham Herbst, Omaha Permaculture
- Mexico: Tres Estrellas Organic Farm and Garden, Lindsey Heathcote, Director of Education at the Tres Estrellas farm.
SWAAN’s agroforestry “tent” got even bigger in January 2022 when Dr. Dennis Garrity, Chair of the Board, Global Evergreening Alliance, presented The EverGreening the Earth Campaign to Restore Ecosystems. Dr. Garrity asked SWAAN if we would be interested in becoming one of the 60+ organizations whose mission is to “achieve a massive impact in land restoration globally” (resulting in) “an additional 20 billion tons of CO2 annually by mid-century, while caring much better for the land and improving livelihoods – particularly of the poorest and most vulnerable.” Information on this campaign has been produced. .