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Forest Farming

Forest farming is the cultivation of high-value crops under the protection of a managed tree canopy. In some parts of the world, this is called multi-story cropping and when used on a small scale in the tropics it is sometimes called home gardening. It is not just recreational harvesting or wild harvesting wild harvesting of native understory wood land plants without management; management is an essential part of forest farming. This approach to crop production intentionally uses both vertical space and the interactions of the plants and microclimate.

The intensity of forest farming production can vary depending on the producer’s goals, available markets, processing equipment and the site. Some examples of management activities include harvesting and scattering local seed; thinning out competing plants; additional site preparation for planting seeds, bulbs or plant starts; soil amendments for pH or fertility; constructed raised planting beds; pest control; and even fencing to keep out animals and poachers.

Goldenseal cultivation beneath a tree canopy.
Non-timber specialty products like goldenseal can be cultivated beneath a tree canopy. (Photo by Katie Trozzo)

Often these woodland crops grown under a canopy are called Non-Timber Forest Products or NTFPs. Crops like ginseng, goldenseal, shiitake or other mushrooms, and decorative ferns are used or sold for medicinal, culinary, and ornamental uses. Forest farming can provide shorter-term income while high-quality trees are being grown for wood or other tree products.

Forest farming is most often used on private lands to supplement family income. Because of the demand and high value of some of these plants they can no longer be found in many places within their historic native range. Wild harvesting of these plants is not allowed on public land in many areas, making forest farming an important option for meeting demand for these plants. Even if the plants of interest are not present in a woodland, the careful inspection of the understory woodland plants may identify other non-economic plants that are often found with these more desirable NTFPs. If so, this may indicate a good location to reintroduce and grow the desired NTFP. Additional benefits of this intensified production is the regular attention in the woods may help to spot and control invasive plants and pests as well as the reduced harvest pressure on wild plant populations that allows them to be reestablished in other woodlands in the region.

Information Sheets

  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Help Landowners Adapt To Increased Rain Intensity?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Practices And Approaches Support Green Infrastructure?

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  • Infosheet

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    How Can Agroforestry Help Landowners Adapt To Climate Change?

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  • Infosheet

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    Where Can Edible Non-timber Forest Products Be Sold?

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  • Infosheet

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    ¿Qué Es Agroforestería?

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  • Infosheet

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    What Is Forest Farming?

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  • Infosheet

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    What Are Agroforestry's Income Opportunities

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  • Infosheet

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    What Is Agroforestry?

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Brochures

Inside Agroforestry

  • Inside Agroforestry

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    So Many Trees To Choose From

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    New And Beginning Farmers

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Why Agroforestry? Part 2

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Learn How You Can Use Agroforestry To Help Pollinators

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    25th Anniversary

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Finding Agroforestry In The 2014 Farm Bill

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Locally Sourced

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Helping Wildlife Helps You!

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Many Paths To Success

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Extreme Weather

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Beyond The Fence Line

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Seeing The Non-timber Forest Products For The Trees

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    A Diverse Portfolio

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Agroforestry: Part Of A Sustainable Future For Agriculture

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    2002 Farm Bill

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Summer 2000

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 2000

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall/Winter 1999-2000

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall/Winter 1998

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Winter 1996

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1996

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Winter/Spring 1996

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Spring 1995

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1994

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  • Inside Agroforestry

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    Fall 1992

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Agroforestry Notes

  • Agroforestry Note

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    Non-timber Forest Products And Forest Stewardship Plans

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Developing Consumer And Market Research For Non-Timber Forest Products

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    An Overview Of Agroforestry

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge In Agroforestry

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Forest Farming Ramps

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Pine Straw: A Profitable Agroforestry Enterprise

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    American Ginseng Production In Woodlots

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Forest Production Of Goldenseal

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Farming Exotic Mushrooms In The Forest

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Economics And Marketing Of Ginseng

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  • Agroforestry Note

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    Forest Farming: An Agroforestry Practice

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Research

  • Research

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    High-resolution Land Cover Of Kansas

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  • Research

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    Diseases Of Trees In The Great Plains

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  • Research

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    A Win-win On Agricultural Lands: Creating Wildlife Habitat Through Agroforestry

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  • Research

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    Analyzing The Uncertainties In Use Of Forest-derived Biomass Equations For Open-grown Trees In Agricultural Land

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  • Research

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    A Role For Agroforestry In Forest Restoration In The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley

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  • Research

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    Branching Out: Agroforestry As A Climate Change Mitigation And Adaptation Tool For Agriculture

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  • Research

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    Enhancing Ecosystem Services: Designing For Multifunctionality

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  • Research

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    Growing American Ginseng In Forestlands

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  • Research

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    Carbon Sequestration In Agricultural Lands Of The United States

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  • Research

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    Forest Farming Practices

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  • Research

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    Creatively Communicating Conservation Complexity

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  • Research

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    Filling The Gap: Improving Estimates Of Working Tree Resources In Agricultural Landscapes

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry: Working Trees For Sequestering Carbon On Agricultural Lands

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  • Research

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    Forest Farming: Expanding Farm And Forestry Opportunities

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  • Research

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    Managing Agricultural Landscapes For Environmental Quality: Strengthening The Science Base

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  • Research

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    Developing And Extending Sustainable Agriculture: A New Social Contract

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  • Research

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    Visualizing Agroforestry Alternatives Or Pixel This!

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  • Research

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    Tool Time: Melding Watershed And Site Goals On Private Lands

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  • Research

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    Visualizing Food And Farm

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  • Research

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    Picture This

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry-Working Trees For Sequestering Carbon On Ag-Lands

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  • Research

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    Inventorying Trees In Agricultural Landscapes: Towards An Accounting Of Working Trees

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  • Research

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    Computer-based Tools For Decision Support In Agroforestry: Current State And Future Needs

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  • Research

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    CBD Technical Series No. 10 - Interlinkages Between Biological Diversity And Climate Change

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry And GIS: Achieving Land Productivity And Environmental Protection

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  • Research

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    Agroforestry: Mapping The Way With GIS

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  • Research

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    Ecobelts: Reconnecting Agriculture And Communities - Case Studies

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  • Research

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    Ecobelts: Reconnecting Agriculture And Communities

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  • Research

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    An Ecological Foundation For Temperate Agroforestry

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  • Research

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    Perspective: Agroforestry And Sustainability: Making A Patchwork Quilt

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More Publications

  • More Publications

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    Guide To USDA Agroforestry Research Funding Opportunities

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  • More Publications

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    Inspirations For Creating A Long-Term Agricultural Lease For Agroforestry: A Workbook

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  • More Publications

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    Marketing Specialty Forest Products

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  • More Publications

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    Edible Woody Landscapes

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  • More Publications

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    Opportunities For Enhancing Nontimber Forest Products Management In The United States

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  • More Publications

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    Profitable Farms And Woodlands

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  • More Publications

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    Manejo De Cafetales Bajo Sombra Hoja Informativa

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  • More Publications

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    Managing Shade Coffee

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  • More Publications

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    RC & D Survey Of Agroforestry Practices

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  • More Publications

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    Agroforestry In The United States: Research And Technology Transfer Needs For The Next Millenium

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  • More Publications

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    Integrating Agroforestry Into USDA Programs

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  • More Publications

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    Working Trees Coloring Book

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/practices/forest-farming.php