Productive Riparian Buffers

Event to focus on riparian buffer design, cost-share options, and agroforestry possibilities

KIMBERTON, PA. In the next six years, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has set the goal of installing nearly 100,000 acres of riparian buffers throughout the state. Buffers protect water resources, reduce erosion, and add to biodiversity within the landscape, but are there any other ways these plantings can serve a farmer or landowner? What sort of assistance and support can farmers and landowners receive for installing riparian buffers?

This field day will be an in-depth look at a 5-year old riparian buffer that both follows Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) guidelines, as well as addresses different uses outside the CREP boundaries. Farm Service Agency employee Don English and wife, landscape architect Ann, have designed a buffer that uses a wide variety of native plants in the CREP area, such as elderberry, hollies, aronia, and viburnums, as well as a broader range of species outside the CREP area — including a number of heritage apples. Principles of buffer design, plant selection, working with government programs, and finding value in the buffer — ecological, social, and economic — will be discussed. The Englishes will also share the lessons they have learned over five years of buffer installation and management—what’s worked for them and what, in hindsight, they might have done differently.

Tracey Coulter, a representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will be present at this field day to discuss agroforestry initiatives within DCNR related to riparian buffer projects. Also present will be representatives of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Stroud Water Research Center, organizations that work with farmers and landowners in the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River watersheds in installing buffers by providing technical as well as access to financial assistance.

Any riparian buffer is helpful, but the most effective buffers include a combination of trees, shrubs, and grasses. Agriculturally productive buffers include all three, so they keep drinking water clean, provide wildlife habitat, prevent erosion, and help control flooding. Best of all, perhaps, you don’t have to give up prime agricultural land in order to grow a buffer. You can generate income from the buffer by growing fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, hay, and other perennial crops. – Liz Brownlee

This field day is a good event for any landowner or farmer who is considering planting a buffer on their land and is wondering what sort of productive potential there might be, what funding opportunities exist, and how, in general, to make the project work. The event will include a short presentation by each speaker, followed by a conversation between attendees and speakers as we tour the English’s buffer project and hear about their challenges and successes, as well as the work non-profits and government agencies are engaged in regarding riparian buffers. Registration includes lunch and can be found at: www.pasafarming.org/events/farm-based-education