Joseph Orefice

Lecturer; Director of Forest & Agricultural Operations, Yale Forests

Joseph Orefice, Ph.D. serves as a Lecturer and Director of Forest and Agricultural Operations at the Yale School of the Environment (YSE). He teaches courses in agroforestry and forest management and he also oversees forestry operations and applied educational opportunities on the 10,880 acre Yale School Forests system. He is a 2009 Master of Forestry alumnus of the school and also holds a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Maine (2007). His Ph.D. work was completed at the University of New Hampshire and focused on temperate silvopasture systems.

Joe brings to Yale a unique skill set in forest management and agroforestry. He is a native of Connecticut and has spent over a decade learning, teaching, and working in the forests of New York and New England. In his past role with Cornell University, Joe directed and managed a 6,000 tap commercial maple and birch syrup operation in Northern New York. His research focus is in temperate agroforestry and applied forest management. Joe’s most recent work has been in maple syrup production systems and temperate silvopasture.

His passion outside of academia is farming, where he integrates agroforestry research into on-farm practices. He is currently developing 133 acres of land in Union, CT into a diversified farm, and proudly saving the land from a prior fate of becoming a golf course.  His current practices include raising beef cattle in silvopastures and growing heirloom figs, with future plans for high tunnel vegetables and maple syrup production. Prior to becoming grounded in Union CT in 2018, Joe owned and operated North Branch Farm in Saranac, NY where he transitioned an abandoned dairy farm into a diversified, ecologically functional, and productive business. Joe has also experienced agriculture through working on a confinement dairy farm, commercial plant nursery, and growing up on a diversified family farm.

Joe served as the Director of Cornell’s Uihlein Maple Research Forest and as the Northern New York Maple Specialist prior to joining YSE in 2018. He also was an Associate Professor in Forestry at Paul Smith’s College from 2009 until 2017, and he proudly looks back on a unique and diverse beginning to his career in experiential education.  He is experienced in teaching multiple disciplines of forestry, agroforestry, and agriculture through both academic and extension roles.  

Joe strives to provide students with real-world applications of course content. He believes students put a greater degree of effort and care into their work when they know it will be utilized in a real situation. It is his belief that a faculty member’s teaching responsibilities do not stop when they leave the classroom. The more faculty can inspire and engage students with topics outside of our major curriculum, the more students will become engaged within the curriculum. One example of this is Joe’s work using personal self-reflection via speaking engagements and written work to encourage others to openly discuss challenging topics such as societal tensions and mental health.  


My research focus is applied agroforestry and forestry. Agroforestry is an understudied science that is currently experiencing a great deal of interest due to its potential for providing ecosystem services, potential to increase the resiliency of agricultural systems, and niche appeal in the local food movement. However, temperate agroforestry suffers from an imbalance between interest in its practices and scientific understanding of its systems – interest is great, scientific understanding is minimal.  This same relationship is true for many wild harvested non-timber forest products. The disparity between interest and understanding toward agroforestry means there is a great opportunity for science to rapidly expand knowledge and provide lasting impacts on the management of working landscapes.

The majority of my work has been in temperate silvopasture systems with an interdisciplinary nature spanning social, ecological, and applied aspects. I also study hardwood silviculture and practical maple syrup production. My broader research interests are in sustainable farming, agroforestry, and using livestock as a form of vegetation management for production purposes, habitat modification, and invasive species eradication.  I believe the results of research should be understood beyond the scientific community and I ensure my work has practical applications while being accessible to both scientific and general audiences.



Ph.D., Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, University of New Hampshire;
Master of Forestry, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies;
B.S., Forestry, University of Maine