Forest farming: Who wants in?
Forest farming is an agroforestry practice defined as the intentional cultivation of nontimber forest products (NTFPs) underneath a forest canopy. Forest farming perspectives and preferences among family forest owners are generally understudied, particularly in Appalachia, where many marketable native NTFPs species are found. We surveyed Appalachian family forest owners in 14 Southwest Virginia counties about their interest in forest farming and likelihood of leasing land for this purpose. We also asked about the owner’s residency and historical connection to the region as well as contemporary land uses, and identified the following types of uses: absentee and vacationers, newcomers, longtime farming residents, and longtime nonfarming residents. We mailed 1,040 surveys and 293 were returned (28.9%). Forty-five percent were interested or extremely interested in forest farming and 36% were likely or extremely likely to lease land. Rates of interest in forest farming and leasing were similar across owner types, suggesting broad appeal among family forest owners.