Over the years, I’ve had many enjoyable opportunities to talk about silvopasturing – mostly in an “official” capacity as an Extension educator. But I’ve never had the chance to share much on how I came to be enamored with this “grazing in Nature’s image” agroforestry system that has become the core of our family’s farms.
The story begins with a young forester (me) who shipped off to Argentina with the Peace Corps in 1992. There I was tasked with sharing my knowledge of forestry and timber harvesting with local ranchers and gauchos who had spent the previous twenty years creating large forests from scratch via planting. The Argentines liked to quip that “God gave them great soils, climate and rainfall, but forgot to add the trees”, so they saw it as their mission to complete the work. They were very successful in their endeavors, and the next step was turning trees into cash.
Interestingly, at the time of my arrival the Province of Cordoba (central Argentina) was importing ~ 90% of the lumber it used from outside the region – most from neighboring countries like Chile and Brazil. Thirty years later, the same region is now self-sufficient and exports 90% of the timber products they grow. That in itself seems like a real success story, but what I gradually came to appreciate from these tree-covered ranching operations was how well the forestry and grazing complimented each other. It was an eye-opening evolution for an idealistic young forester who was taught since forestry school infancy that: “Thou shall not graze livestock in forests!”
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