Silvopasture In The Sandhills

November 20, 2014 - Horticulture, Livestock, View All

Farm: Fox Squirrel Farm
Operator: Jason and Sarah Smith
Production: Livestock, Fruit, Vegetables
Markets: Farmer’s Market, CSA
Location:Eagle Springs, Moore County, NC

Fox Squirrel Farm is run by Jason Smith and Sarah Daly, a young couple living in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. The two were working in retail and service jobs when Jason was inspired by an experience with farming on land that was purchased by a chef that he worked under. They decided to move and settle in Moore County on family land Jason had inherited and began farming. Jason attended courses on sustainable agriculture at the Central Carolina Community College to prepare and learn the skills necessary to grow the business. The couple cultivates organic vegetables and humanely raised pigs and chickens which they sell at several farmers markets in the region.

Jason and Sarah have also experimented with an innovative system of integrating livestock with tree crops called ‘silvopasture.’ The system offers several benefits, including greater economic value for the farmer, as the land can be used to raise livestock while also producing timber or tree fruit and nuts.

“We want to demonstrate that with a little planning and management, one piece of land can simultaneously produce numerous different products including various livestock, fruit, nuts, and timber. We also want to educate that livestock are valuable for much more than just the products we think of; they are cutting grass, sanitizing pasture, clearing land, fertilizing, providing interesting agritourism sights, and utilizing unsold vegetables,” Jason says.

Silvopasture benefits both the livestock and the tree crops and form a closed-loop system for nutrients. The livestock fertilize the tree crops by grazing between the plants and leaving behind manure. The trees provide shade and forage for the animals in the form of rotted or unmarketable fruits and nuts. Chickens can benefit the trees by foraging on common pests that make their nesting habitat in the soil around the base of the tree.

“There are numerous additional benefits to a silvopasture system—shade in the summer, windbreak in the winter, and to minimize erosion. Since our pasture area is located southwest from our vegetable production, we will also benefit from the added windbreak. On a small scale, silvopasture can be installed with fruit or nut trees, increasing the income potential of the land,” Jason says.

Jason and Sarah invested in portable fencing and chicken tractors to guide the animals through the trees in organized paddocks. The fencing is made out of lightweight plastic and can be easily folded and reset by two people. Their animal rotation system ensures that the animals always have access to adequate forage. Their chicken tractors are essentially mobile coops that provide shelter from predators and inclement weather.

Fox Squirrel Farms from RAFI-USA on Vimeo.