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Working Trees

Agroforestry is not yet a common word for farmers, ranchers, and foresters. So we talk about Working Trees to communicate that trees can be purposefully incorporated into farms, ranches, woodlands and communities to do specific jobs like provide income and wildlife habitat or protect soil, water and air quality. The Working Trees brochures, information sheets, and displays are available to help you learn and talk about agroforestry with the people who live and work in your community.

The Seeds Of Working Trees

Trees have a job to do. Put them to "work" on your land and watch them do important tasks like improve water quality, control soil erosion, increase agricultural production, and provide wildlife habitat.

The Working Trees concept was a fundamental step towards helping the USDA National Agroforestry Center effectively communicate the role that trees can play in agricultural systems. Natural resource professionals and landowners identify with Working Trees: combining agriculture and forestry practices to yield environmental, economic, and social benefits.

Jerry Bratton
Jerry Bratton

The Working Trees concept was the brainchild of now-retired Forest Service Lead Agroforester, Jerry (JB) Bratton. After 23 years as District Forester for southeast Kansas, he became Great Plains Forestry Specialist (later Lead Agroforester) for the USDA Forest Service. With his focus on the entire region rather than individual forest lands, he saw the positive effect that trees could have on whole watersheds and the greater landscape. Jerry says, "When I became focused on the Great Plains as a whole, I realized that trees continually provide an important service to us. When the right trees are planted in the right places they can do any number of things to help conserve natural resources." And so, the seeds of Working Trees were planted.

As the USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) began to take shape in the early 1990's, an informational brochure about agroforestry was needed. With the 1994 publication of "Agroforestry: Working Trees for Agriculture," Working Trees had sprouted and continues to grow. The demand for this brochure has been so popular that NAC is now distributing copies of its sixth printing, as well as a Spanish translation. The original drawings used to illustrate theoretical concepts have been replaced by photographs of real-life agroforestry examples. The Working Trees concept is now an integral component to promoting agroforestry in the United States.

One of Jerry's favorite sayings is, "Working Trees really earn their room and board!" If the growing adoption of agroforestry practices across the country is any indication, a lot of other people think so, too!


About Agroforestry

Agroforestry intentionally combines agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems. Agroforestry takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. Agroforestry practices include:

About the NAC

The USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) had its origins in the 1990 Farm Bill. It began as a Forest Service Research and State & Private Forestry effort in 1992 and expanded into a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 1995. It is administered by the Forest Service's, Washington, DC, Office of Research and Development. NAC offices are located in Lincoln, Nebraska.

NAC accelerates the application of agroforestry through a national network of partners. Together, we conduct research, develop technologies and tools, coordinate demonstrations and training, and provide useful information to natural resource professionals.

About Working Trees

The right trees planted in the right places for the right reasons can add value to land-use systems. That's the Working Trees message that helps natural resource professionals, community leaders, and landowners identify with the concept of agroforestry. NAC uses the Working Trees theme to promote the development of sustainable agriculture and communities.


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