Schemes that reward developing countries for mitigating greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions through forest preservation and restoration are becoming more common. However, efforts to reduce GHG emissions must also consider food production. This creates an apparent conflict, given that agricultural production – a key driver of GHG emissions as a consequence of forest clearance – will increase as human populations continue to grow. We propose that a mosaic of small patches of forest mixed with cropland enables sustainable intensification of agriculture by minimizing soil degradation. Economic analyses of this mixed land-use concept suggest an improvement of long-term economic performance of 19–25% relative to conventional industrial agriculture with large-scale monocropping. Adopting this approach requires farm management plans, landscape zoning, and new instruments to finance sustainable agriculture. We conclude that climate policy and food production can be reconciled through an integrative landscape concept that combines this more sustainable method of agricultural intensification with the reforestation of abandoned lands.