Around 300 people at the German 9th Agroforestry Systems Forum in Freiburg

Under the motto "Making agriculture fit for the future", this year's Agroforestry Forum for the German-speaking region took place on 27 and 28 September 2023 in beautiful Freiburg. With almost 300 the number of participants increased compared to the previous biennial forums. This is an indication that interest in agroforestry continues to grow.


The conference was less about the well-known advantages of agroforestry systems and more about the possibilities and ways in which they can be designed more multifunctionally and cooperatively on the field. We were there and learnt a lot from interesting lectures, posters and talks about the diversity, complexity and resilience that this sensational form of land use brings with it in economic, social and ecological terms.

During three excursions on the first day, the participants visited several example farms in the region that practise regenerative agriculture and produce regional organic products from it. The topics ranged from orchard and timber production to grazing concepts with geese in orchards and sheep in vineyards. 
During our visit to the Domäne Hochburg estate, we were able to see for ourselves how well the 340 geese are doing on the 3.4 hectares of meadow orchard where they are allowed to graze during the day. They fertilise the meadow with their droppings, while the trees provide them with shade. The geese gladly accept the offer on this sunny day. The system was originally set up as a conservation garden for old apple varieties, some of which are native, such as the "Aujäger" or the "Ulmer Polizeiapfel". The apples are processed into partly varietal juices and sold ex farm via vending machines and in shops in the surrounding area. The goose meat is offered in cooperation with a small slaughterhouse in the neighbouring village for St. Martin's Day and Christmas. A goose can reach an average slaughter weight of 5 kg (!).
In addition to the breathtaking view from the Staatsweingut Freiburg, our second excursion stop, of the Rhine plain, the Vosges and the vineyards of the Kaiserstuhl, we were particularly impressed by the sheep running around among the vines. This was a trial site of the research project "Win-win in the vineyard" of the Rottenburg University of Applied Sciences. The aim is to revitalise historical extensive forms of use while at the same time increasing land efficiency due to dual use and regional value creation of not only wine but also wool and meat in a land use system. The sheep also act as "lawn mowers" and keep the vines free of unwanted shoots, weeds and the grape zone. Last but not least, this form of multiple use provides environmental services such as microhabitats, soil building and erosion control.

After a joint dinner and conclusion of the first with plenty of exchange and networking, the second conference day started with a presentation by Dr. Ravi Prabhu, Vice Director of the international agroforestry NGO CIFOR-ICRAF. He brought some examples of uplifting and community-based agriculture in his home country India. Prabhu predicted that without the agroecological transformation of the "big framework", namely the policy and support structures, no real regeneration of the respective national land use systems could be expected either. Prof. Klein from the University of Freiburg then spoke about the reaction of bees to pesticide-contaminated plants during pollination. Flowering strips that are as diverse as possible along rows of trees or in their undergrowth are important elements for promoting the biodiversity of agroforestry systems. At the end of the plenary session, Jan Große-Kleinmann, a convinced young farmer, shared his practical experience with the establishment of an agroforestry system on his farm in Münsterland. In the further course of the forum, the visitors were able to learn about practical experiences with implementation, political and legal (funding) strategies, education and knowledge transfer as well as the ecosystem services of agroforestry systems in four expert sessions.

Agroforestry had a big stage in Freiburg! We will take home enriching discussions, new impulses and contacts for the promotion of this regenerative land use in Saxony and Central Germany. Thank you to all organisers and participants who made this exchange on this platform possible!

Documentation of the event (in German)

OLGA conference poster (in German) "Monitoring von Mikroklima, Gehölzstruktur und Biomassewachstum agroforstlicher Systeme an Fließgewässern"