Paul Smith’s College researchers document uncharted territory on regional farms

Mar 28, 2016 | News

A Paul Smith’s College professor and his student landed a new peer-reviewed journal article in the international scientific journal Agroforestry Systems.

Joseph Orefice, professor of forestry, and Leanne Ketner, a senior majoring in integrative studies at Paul Smith’s, investigated the use of silvopasture on farms in the Northeastern United States. The practice, which had never been documented in the region before, integrates livestock and trees within the same pasture, providing shelter and forage for the livestock while maximizing the use of the trees as productive and healthy crops.

“It’s exciting to be at the forefront of this practice,” said Orefice, who has been practicing silvopasture on his own farm in Saranac, N.Y., for six years. “I believe you should be familiar with things you research. There’s nothing better than combining theory and practice.”

To conduct the research, Orefice and Ketner investigated the structure, management and purpose of silvopastures in New York state and New England through a series of interviews and inventories of 20 different farms. They focused only on farms that produced trees as crops and raised livestock on the same land.

Most of the farmers interviewed said that their livestock received more shelter and had more grass to eat during droughts. On these same lands, farmers were able to harvest timber, firewood, fruit, nuts and maple sugar from the very same trees that provided benefits to livestock. However, the research also identified areas in need of better management, such as the long-term keeping of pigs in wooded areas, which is not a silvopasture practice.

“It was great to see how beneficial silvopasture could be for livestock, forests and farmers when it was practiced properly,” said Ketner, who served as a research assistant for the project. “This was a fantastic experience. Not many students get a chance to work so closely with their professors. These are experiences that can truly shape a student’s future. Joe knows his stuff, and he was able to impart some of that wisdom on me, for which I will be forever grateful.”

John Caroll and Drew Conroy, Orefice’s colleagues from the University of New Hampshire, were coauthors on the study. They received financial support from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative.

To read the full journal article, visit

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