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Living Lab

Forest Farming

Category

Forestry: Non-Timber Forest Products

Partners

Yale School of the Environment; Northeast Forest Farmers Coalition (NFFC)

Summary

Three year project started in 2023 supported by a major Northeastern Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (SARE) grant is conducting applied forest farming research and education in collaboration with academics, forest farmers and local youth at Smokey House Center that seeks to develop new strategies for providing planting stock of commercially valuable and at-risk native forest plants.

Key 2024 events/objectives

  • Collect our first round of data on the forest botanical propagation trials we established last fall designed to better understand effective production models for growing at-risk and high value forest botanical crops quickly from seed into planting stock. 

  • Establish our forest botanical R&D nursery and other demonstration sites that will become the backbone of forest farming outreach efforts.

  • Host a regional forest farming conference in partnership with the NFFC over the summer that will serve as a major gathering and educational opportunity for regional stakeholders interested in forest farming.

  • Host forest botanical propagation workshops and launch a beginning propagator mentorship program that will support 5-10 land managers in starting forest botanical micro-nurseries.

  • Establish baseline data sets for forest botanical populations across the Smokey House Center property with youth groups in spring that will set the stage for future research efforts.

Purpose

Build infrastructure for forest farming in the Northeast, a practice that can provide new, much-needed sources of income to farmers/forest owners, helping them to keep their forests as forest while actively participating in the conservation of at-risk understory plants.

Community Science and Recreation Planning Project

Category

Farming and Forestry: ecological data collection

Partners

VT Center for Ecostudies; UVM Extension; Strength Perspectives; Vermont Youth Conservation Corps; Sinuosity; Danby VT Planning Commission

Summary

Funded by a Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative Grant, this project will develop a community-informed plan for revitalizing Smokey House’s degraded trail system while designing a trail-based community science program that brings community members directly into the land-based research of the Living Lab. This work will increase access to a spectrum of meaningful recreation opportunities for key community groups like Danby residents and youth groups. In turn, outdoor recreation will be a key mechanism for accomplishing the research goals of Smokey House’s Living Lab program while building a sense of shared community stewardship and connection to the landscape. This project will act as a land-based case study in exploring how recreation opportunities can be designed to support community-based participatory research and stewardship of place.

Purpose

Developing a plan for the public to actively contribute to baseline ecological data collection at Smokey House Center and, in doing so, gain a sense of connection with and shared stewardship of the landscape. Once the plan is enacted, Smokey House Center researchers can use the datasets that are continually updated by the visiting public to help track impacts of climate change and land management strategies across the property over long time frames.

Forest Economy Project

Category

Forestry: Timber Forest Products

Partners

Vermont State University (co-lead with Smokey House Center); Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design; University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Natural Resources; Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund; Vermont Green Builders Network; New Frameworks

Summary

Vermont State University (VTSU) and Smokey House Center are the co-leads on a forest economy project to begin in 2024, supported by a major grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission. The project’s research and demonstration of innovative and climate-beneficial building technologies with a broad coalition of academic and industry partners will support advancement of an environmentally sound regional forest sector and wood economy. Every step of the project is designed to offer educational demonstrations for the industry and the general public and participation by local youth. Additionally, a model structure built at Smokey House Center will be used long-term to serve a summer forestry internship program planned for the future that will amplify the work of the Living Lab at Smokey House Center.

Purpose

Research and education into the use of regionally-supplied and innovative wood products sourced through climate adaptive forest management strategies, such as hemlock-based mass timber and wood fiber insulation, that contribute less embodied carbon emissions and sequester more carbon in buildings than more traditional materials like steel and concrete.