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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

Forest farming is an agroforestry practice that involves growing and stewarding non-timber forest products (NTFPs) under forest canopies. It can increase economic resilience for farms by diversifying income streams while helping to increase forest biodiversity and keep our forest as forest. This three year project started in 2023 is supported by a major Northeast Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (SARE) grant and focuses on conducting applied forest farming research and education in collaboration with researchers, forest farmers and local youth at Smokey House Center. The underlying objective of the project is to develop new strategies for providing planting stock of commercially valuable and at-risk native forest plants such as ginseng, ramps, and goldenseal.

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.

School Group Visits

Category

Youth

Partners

Currier Memorial Elementary; Burr and Burton Academy; Dorset School; Long Trail School; Red Fox Community School, Manchester Elementary Middle School, Mettawee Community School

Summary

School groups visit to participate in Living Lab climate research-in-progress. In the spring of 2024, in association with the researchers involved in the Forest Farming Project, youth groups will launch a research project focused on better understanding the long-term impacts of ramp (wild onion) harvesting, helping to set up research plots and transplanting ramps into new areas of the forest for long-term study.

Purpose

In a 2021 ten nation study published in the Lancet, the authors wrote:

“Distress about climate change is associated with young people perceiving that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, that governments are failing to respond adequately, and with feelings of betrayal and abandonment by governments and adults. These are chronic stressors which will have significant, long-lasting and incremental negative implications on the mental health of children and young people.”

Engaging school children directly in cross-generational climate work and research at Smokey House Center is a practical way to inspire meaning and hope while offering pathways to lives of improved health and purpose.