Non-operator landowner interest in agroforestry practices in two Missouri watersheds

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Land tenure has long been considered a critical factor in determining the adoption and long-term maintenance of agroforestry practices. Empirical evidence from non-US settings has consistently shown that secure land tenure is positively associated with agroforestry adoption. In the US, over 40% of private agricultural land is farmed by someone other than the owner. Given the importance of land tenure in agroforestry decisions in other countries and the magnitude of non-operator landownership in the US, there has been surprisingly little focus on land tenure in the temperate agroforestry literature. Using data from a 1999 survey in Missouri, this study explores factors associated with non-operator landowner interest in agroforestry. Results suggest that differences in farming orientation are linked to interest in agroforestry. Closer ties to farming, stronger financial motivations for landownership, and higher proportion of land planted to row crops were negatively related to interest in agroforestry among non-operator landowners. Environmental or recreational motivations for landownership and contacts with natural resource professionals were positively associated with interest in agroforestry. These results, consistent with earlier qualitative research suggesting that farm operators who have a strong “conventional farming identity” were less interested in agroforestry, point to a divide between landowners for whom environmental and recreational values play an important role in ownership motivation and those for whom financial considerations take precedence. The findings imply that agroforestry development programs in the US should take non-operator landowners and their farming and ownership orientations into account when designing research and outreach efforts.

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