The interest for Agroforestry is gaining speed in Sweden

By Annevi Sjöberg, Permakultur Stjärnsund, March 2015.

On the 7-9th of November 2014, Sweden had their first official Agroforestry Network Meeting for Nordic climates in the little village of Stjärnsund, Dalarna. The event was fully booked hosting more than 75 enthusiastic farmers, smallholders and representatives from Swedish Universities, NGOs and Agricultural and environmental interest groups. The aim of the weekend was to forge closer ties between all who are interested and active within the field. The event turned into a successful initial meeting with lots of ideas, inspiration and exchanged experiences. The set-up was largely structured around participants' own experiences and interests so there was plenty of time for constructive discussions on the schedule, but also presentations from farmers who are at the forefront within the field of Agroforestry in Sweden. One of those farmers is Kjell Sjelin who, among many other things, is participating in a research project with perennial wheat at his farm in the Uppsala Region. Another farmer with great dedication is Ulf Karlmats who has a Silvopasture project mixing birch and animals since the 90s. Kjell Sjelin and others involved in the research project Sustainable food production in Sweden - the potential with agroforestry systems shared their experiences on forest gardening even if is still in its early days as it as the project started in 2012. We look forward to hearing about their progress. The experiences and outcomes of the network meeting has been summarized and we are now making plans for the next Agroforestry Conference in Gothenburg in the early/mid November 2015. This event will be arranged in support and cooperation with Urban Rural Gothenburg (city of Gothenburg) Chalmers in connection with the international agroforestry research networks Fucali and Siani, among others. More information about the event will be published soon on the following websites: www.utvecklingnordost.se, www.skogsjordbrukvast.se.

Pictures of the Agroforestry Network meeting can be accessed here.



Puttmyra Forest Garden

by Philipp Weiss, February 2015

Forest gardening has been on the rise in Sweden for a few years and is probably the most widespread agroforestry practice in use. There are many dozens of forest gardens in the country now, ranging from tiny backyard forest gardens to several thousand square meter large sites. Despite this, many questions with regard to forest garden design and practice in the harsh Swedish climate remain unanswered. Puttmyra Forest Garden, which we will report on in this article, is one of the larger sites where forest gardening is put into practice. It is located in the south of the province of Dalarna, about 200 km northwest of Stockholm, and covers an area of approximately 0.8 ha. We started establishing the garden in 2011, after a two-year period of site observation prior to purchasing the land.The main objective with creating the forest garden was initially to provide our family with high quality, diverse food throughout a large part of the year produced from a system that actually enhances the ecological value of the site. We also aimed at producing a surplus to sell or trade for other products. However, we soon realised that we were facing unprecedented challenges in forest gardening, mostly due to our harsh climate. So while we are still striving for reaching our initial objective, we also conduct many different trials on our site. Furthermore we try to evaluate forest gardening in our climate from an overall perspective, what its advantages and disadvantages are, and which challenges need to be resolved. As a consequence, a major objective has become identifying suitable plants and polyculture designs and we are focusing especially on trialling hardy nut species.

Follow the link to discover further details.




A brief description of agroforestry in Sweden

The traditional agroforestry in Sweden was silvo-pastoral systems, where animals; cattle, sheep and goats were grazing in the extensive forests. Historically, these areas were commonly owned and free ranged, whereas meadows and cultivated areas and villages were private and fenced. This agroforestry system have had a great economic importance, it was a prerequisite for the economy in the farm households as it contributed with fodder and several other resources and services. Trees and bushes were used for food, feed, fuel, wood and construction material. Charcoal, potash and tar were also produced. Bark, leaves and nuts from oak (Quercus robur), hazel (Corylus avellana) and beech (Fagus sylvatica), mushroom and berries were important food products. The animal grazing had a large impact on the structure and composition of the forests. The densities of trees and bushes varied due to grazing pressure and local ecological conditions, they could be dense and down to nearly open. Coppicing, where trees and bushes were cut down to a 0,3 m or less from ground level, to encourage a multitude of new shoots or pollarding,where tree stems were cut off about 2 m above ground level to encouraging lateral branches was two common means to harvest leaves and branches for winter fodder.

The system of summer farms has also been important for the agricultural expansion and economy in the north of Sweden during 1500 to 1850. These systems comprised free grazing in mountainous areas for cattle, sheep and goats kept for meat, milk cheese and butter production. Animals were moved to the farm in early summer and part of the farming family stayed on the site during the summer. The work at the summer farms were often organized conjunctly in the villages and young girls or women where employed for the activity. Today these activities are appreciated mainly for their cultural and natural values, and the management are supported by subsidies in CAP. There are about 250 summer farms in Sweden today, using approximately 15 000 ha and about 3 000 heads of goats, sheep and cows are kept. They are organized in a national association “Svenska Fäboföreningen”. For further information please contact: ordforande [at] fabod [dot] nu (Pauline Palmcrantz).

Semi-natural pastures with bushes and trees are agroforestry systems that due to their contribution to natural values, e.g. biodiversity, are described as important to reach the Swedish national environmental goals such as; “Rich agricultural landscape” and “Rich flora and fauna”. The national goal is set to 450 000 ha of used semi-natural pastures and this goal was mainly reach in 2008. EU-subsidies for this land use are based on geographic position and potential ecological values (three levels of payments based on inventories). There are restrictions on amount of trees per hectare (max 60 trees per hectare) in order to receive payment.

Today there are a growing group of farmers developing forms of agroforestry systems, as well as research to evaluate them. These systems are based on agroecological theories. Examples are; edible forest gardens, multi species orchards and hazel plantations, hens and grazing animals in semi-natural pastures and forest, alley cropping and development of perennial vegetable crops. The focus is on development of productive and economically viable multifunctional systems contributing with food, fiber and fuel as well as ecosystem services, biodiversity and meaning.



Further Information

- Follow the link to learn about agroforestry projects in Sweden.

- Photo Gallery: Agroforestry in Sweden (Link)