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Interview With Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
Posts: 544

PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:55 pm    Post subject: Interview With Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm Reply with quote

http://ethicalfoodsguide.com/interview-mark-shepard-restoration-agriculture/

Working with and within nature using perennial food crops and restoration agriculture.
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Murf



Joined: 26 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting like. One question he kind of dodged though was:

Quote:
How can those with only a small, urban backyard participate in restoration agriculture?


I'd be interested to hear how this kind of idea might be put to work on the scale of say, an allotment plot.
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emordnilap



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I get the impression he's interested in large-scale production of perennial crops, though I too would like to hear his ideas for small scale enterprises.
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RenewableCandy



Joined: 12 Sep 2007
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Location: York

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murf wrote:
Interesting like. One question he kind of dodged though was:

Quote:
How can those with only a small, urban backyard participate in restoration agriculture?


I'd be interested to hear how this kind of idea might be put to work on the scale of say, an allotment plot.
The RenewablePlot is attempting precisely that. In the face of a massive bindweed infestation, but we're working on it Smile Also see (somewhere) my pic of the 2m by 2m "world's smallest forest garden".
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Murf wrote:
Interesting like. One question he kind of dodged though was:

Quote:
How can those with only a small, urban backyard participate in restoration agriculture?


I'd be interested to hear how this kind of idea might be put to work on the scale of say, an allotment plot.

He is more focused on broad scale and completely transforming farming altogether. However...the concepts pretty much the same, just scale it down and think 'horticulture' not agriculture.

Plant productive trees, mix up some perennial veg in there, have a go at 'no dig' methods, use hugalculture beds, get plenty of mulch on stuff, use compost teas, lots of companion planting (like the basic three sisters) with flowers (edible ones), try and retain the water on your bit of land to recharge it and grow aquatic plants and maybe some fish, perhaps introduce some chickens or ducks in there too, or both. All of it is good and healthy for the land.

Grab one of these... http://www.greenbooks.co.uk/how-to-grow-perennial-vegetables

And one of those.... http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/plants-for-a-future.html

Hope that's of some use to you.
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
Murf wrote:
Interesting like. One question he kind of dodged though was:

Quote:
How can those with only a small, urban backyard participate in restoration agriculture?


I'd be interested to hear how this kind of idea might be put to work on the scale of say, an allotment plot.
The RenewablePlot is attempting precisely that. In the face of a massive bindweed infestation, but we're working on it Smile Also see (somewhere) my pic of the 2m by 2m "world's smallest forest garden".


I saw a pic. Great, well done.

Have you looked into uses for bindweed?...and the conditions it likes?
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last year I noticed the stems were strong enough to tie up bean-poles: I didn't have to remember to bring any string.

But it really isn't stuff you want around. I've timed it growing at 2 feet per day (an inch per hour)! Frankly, it's the sort of stuff you never read about in anything with "permaculture" written on it. Even the definitive Forest Garden book advises glyphosate (I've not yet had to resort to it).
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Tarrel



Joined: 29 Nov 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A variation on the theme:

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-02-14/badgersett-bringing-woody-agriculture-into-the-mainstream

Some ideas around using intensively managed perennial nut crops as a viable substitute for maize and other annual crops. Worth a look.
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tarrel wrote:
A variation on the theme:

http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-02-14/badgersett-bringing-woody-agriculture-into-the-mainstream

Some ideas around using intensively managed perennial nut crops as a viable substitute for maize and other annual crops. Worth a look.


Producing food isn't a problem, agriculture is.

Hope it's giving you food for thought on ideas for the land you're on ;-0)
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Tarrel



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Producing food isn't a problem, agriculture is


Yes, and what this guy is proposing is a restorative system that avoids many of the problems associated with traditional annual crops. Essentially he is talking about re-forestation, but in a way that produces food, as well as de-carbonising the atmosphere. Issues his approach seeks to address include:
- Water retention, leading to reduced run-off and flooding
- Soil erosion
- Destruction of wildlife habitat
- Opportunity to reduce maintenance, leading to reduced fossil-fuel use
- Opportunity to increase carbon sequestration
- Opportunity to build a food production system that is more resilient to weather extremes.

The main thing I don't like in his approach is the intensive and mechanised nature of the methods. However, I think this is a recognition of the realism that any replacement to conventional agriculture is going to have to deliver:
a) Food in substantial volumes
b) A viable income for the farmer
If it is going to be even remotely accepted.

Quote:
Hope it's giving you food for thought on ideas for the land you're on ;-0)


Too right! I was already going down this route, but it has given me plenty more thought and ideas. I just need to bring the blog up to date to reflect where we're up to!

FWIW, our woodland basically consists of a big block of Noble Fir, planted at 2m spacings, with rides every 25m. It is surrounded by a shelter belt of mixed conifers and broadleaves, which altogether represents around 20% of the land area. There is also a block of Scots Pine which I imagine the original owners planted as a requirement of the woodland grant (min percentage of native trees).

The main block was planted for the specific purpose of yielding ornamental foliage for the festive trade. This is achieved by pruning the branches. The cut branches are the saleable product. The block is divided into four quadrants and we work on a four year rotation, to give the trees a rest after pruning. This is a major departure from the previous owners, who cut the whole block every year.

We've had the wood for around 5 years. The foliage still provides a modest income, and I'm looking to continue this as long as is feasible. The main changes we have made to this operation, however, are:
- Drastically reduced the amount cut, and introduced the four year cycle described above
- As a result, we are working with much smaller vehicles for extraction, reducing ground damage
- We have vertically-integrated to start producing the end-product for the foliage (wreaths), giving us a much greater income per kg cut.

The main block is in need of thinning, which we have started to do using two approaches:

1. "Continuous Cover Forestry" approach, in which we take out clusters of 1-3 trees at intervals, allowing a shaft of light to fall to the ground. This allows natural or assisted regeneration. My aim is to replace these thinned trees with broadleaves that can be coppiced.

2. Expanding natural glades. We have some areas of open ground, and the aim is to open these further by clearing some of the conifers on the northern edges. We will then edge-plant with a 3-D system of food-bearing broadleaves at the back, food-bearing shrubs in front of these and ground-cover in front of the shrubs (either naturally occurring or planted). Ultimately I'll put some livestock in there to manage the ground cover.

We're pretty much learning as we're going. The above approach represents good practice as far as I can gather from my research. The next step in learning is to see what happens as this system develops. Nothing like learning from experience, although any comments / warnings will be much appreciated!

It's taken me five years of managing the wood as the previous owners did, to figure out what I really want/need to do. I'm now giving myself a 10-15 year time scale, by which time I'll be 65-70. The ultimate aim would be to be able to demonstrate a workable system of production, then create some kind of co-operative enterprise so others can continue in the same vein when it gets too much for me.

Whoops! That's turned into quite a long post. Sorry.


Embarassed
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tarrel wrote:
Quote:
Producing food isn't a problem, agriculture is


Yes, and what this guy is proposing is a restorative system that avoids many of the problems associated with traditional annual crops. Essentially he is talking about re-forestation, but in a way that produces food, as well as de-carbonising the atmosphere. Issues his approach seeks to address include:
- Water retention, leading to reduced run-off and flooding
- Soil erosion
- Destruction of wildlife habitat
- Opportunity to reduce maintenance, leading to reduced fossil-fuel use
- Opportunity to increase carbon sequestration
- Opportunity to build a food production system that is more resilient to weather extremes.

The main thing I don't like in his approach is the intensive and mechanised nature of the methods. However, I think this is a recognition of the realism that any replacement to conventional agriculture is going to have to deliver:
a) Food in substantial volumes
b) A viable income for the farmer
If it is going to be even remotely accepted.

Quote:
Hope it's giving you food for thought on ideas for the land you're on ;-0)


Too right! I was already going down this route, but it has given me plenty more thought and ideas. I just need to bring the blog up to date to reflect where we're up to!

FWIW, our woodland basically consists of a big block of Noble Fir, planted at 2m spacings, with rides every 25m. It is surrounded by a shelter belt of mixed conifers and broadleaves, which altogether represents around 20% of the land area. There is also a block of Scots Pine which I imagine the original owners planted as a requirement of the woodland grant (min percentage of native trees).

The main block was planted for the specific purpose of yielding ornamental foliage for the festive trade. This is achieved by pruning the branches. The cut branches are the saleable product. The block is divided into four quadrants and we work on a four year rotation, to give the trees a rest after pruning. This is a major departure from the previous owners, who cut the whole block every year.

We've had the wood for around 5 years. The foliage still provides a modest income, and I'm looking to continue this as long as is feasible. The main changes we have made to this operation, however, are:
- Drastically reduced the amount cut, and introduced the four year cycle described above
- As a result, we are working with much smaller vehicles for extraction, reducing ground damage
- We have vertically-integrated to start producing the end-product for the foliage (wreaths), giving us a much greater income per kg cut.

The main block is in need of thinning, which we have started to do using two approaches:

1. "Continuous Cover Forestry" approach, in which we take out clusters of 1-3 trees at intervals, allowing a shaft of light to fall to the ground. This allows natural or assisted regeneration. My aim is to replace these thinned trees with broadleaves that can be coppiced.

2. Expanding natural glades. We have some areas of open ground, and the aim is to open these further by clearing some of the conifers on the northern edges. We will then edge-plant with a 3-D system of food-bearing broadleaves at the back, food-bearing shrubs in front of these and ground-cover in front of the shrubs (either naturally occurring or planted). Ultimately I'll put some livestock in there to manage the ground cover.

We're pretty much learning as we're going. The above approach represents good practice as far as I can gather from my research. The next step in learning is to see what happens as this system develops. Nothing like learning from experience, although any comments / warnings will be much appreciated!

It's taken me five years of managing the wood as the previous owners did, to figure out what I really want/need to do. I'm now giving myself a 10-15 year time scale, by which time I'll be 65-70. The ultimate aim would be to be able to demonstrate a workable system of production, then create some kind of co-operative enterprise so others can continue in the same vein when it gets too much for me.

Whoops! That's turned into quite a long post. Sorry.


Embarassed


Sure, it's all good stuff.
Pound for pound, for my money, the best food, and biodiversity production system in the world is that of, Sepp Holtzers. He also happens to be in a temperate climate and in among pine plantations and he's a master of his craft.


Ahhh, systems of scale and the commodification of food, it's a problem, but I think it can be countered by portioning large scale farms down to smaller 10-20 acre areas for production by regenerative methods, more hands on and high skill level. Incentive's for land owners to do so and subsidies the tenants along the way, Clear policy for low impact dwellings. Good for jobs, affordable dwellings and biodiversity mitigating against flooding.

Are you having any problems with the pine beetle as yet?.....doubtful if you're not cutting down large blocks at a time. I wonder if you've pondered fire ecology and planting in fire break species?
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Tarrel



Joined: 29 Nov 2011
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Location: Ross-shire, Scotland

PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No real problems with bark beetle (I assume that's what you mean). Some evidence of attack on failing trees, but the healthy ones seem resistant. I think firs are more resistant to bark beetle than pines. They are a potential problem with even-aged monocultures, which is one big reason why I am seeking to diversify. I'd rather take the conifers out and replace them with other things on my terms, rather than on the beetle's terms!

We have had some problems with wooly aphids on our Nordmann Firs, but we don't have many of these, and they are not important commercially.

The biggest disease problem we have is Interior Needle Blight. This is a specific problem to Noble Fir and is basically caused by excess humidity and lack of airflow, hence the need to thin. It is a fungal infection that affects the needles on the lower branches, close to the trunk. It comes out of nowhere in September, causing affected branches to go brown. Over the winter, the brown needles drop off. It's a little worrying, but "we're on it" as the saying goes.

I think I'll stay away from fire at the moment!

Thanks for the heads-up on Sepp Holtzers.
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Tarrel



Joined: 29 Nov 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back on OT, here's a link to a great video of a presentation by Mark Shepard. It's long (over two hours) but goes into a lot more detail about his system.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb_t-sVVzF0
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Murf



Joined: 26 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RenewableCandy wrote:
Murf wrote:
Interesting like. One question he kind of dodged though was:

Quote:
How can those with only a small, urban backyard participate in restoration agriculture?


I'd be interested to hear how this kind of idea might be put to work on the scale of say, an allotment plot.
The RenewablePlot is attempting precisely that. In the face of a massive bindweed infestation, but we're working on it Smile Also see (somewhere) my pic of the 2m by 2m "world's smallest forest garden".


Good stuff. Let me know how it goes!

I've got bindweed all over my allotment too. This is only my second year of having the plot, but last year I managed to keep the bindweed under a reasonable amount of control by just pulling up the stems from ground level most weekends and dumping them in a bin with a lid on it. Also by just putting a tarp over the worst affected area.

It hasn't reappeared so far this year, but I'm fully expecting it to. Whether my harvesting it will weaken it longterm I've no idea. I shudder at the idea of digging all the roots out though.

The area of couch grass I'm turning over at the moment is bad enough for that.
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Murf



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PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peaceful_life wrote:

He is more focused on broad scale and completely transforming farming altogether. However...the concepts pretty much the same, just scale it down and think 'horticulture' not agriculture.

Plant productive trees, mix up some perennial veg in there, have a go at 'no dig' methods, use hugalculture beds, get plenty of mulch on stuff, use compost teas, lots of companion planting (like the basic three sisters) with flowers (edible ones), try and retain the water on your bit of land to recharge it and grow aquatic plants and maybe some fish, perhaps introduce some chickens or ducks in there too, or both. All of it is good and healthy for the land.

Grab one of these... http://www.greenbooks.co.uk/how-to-grow-perennial-vegetables

And one of those.... http://www.green-shopping.co.uk/plants-for-a-future.html

Hope that's of some use to you.


Cheers. I'll take a look at that. Unfortunately my only foray into perennial veg so far (apart from rhubarb - which we have more than we can use of) is my three goes at trying to plant asparagus. Each one resulting in nothing growing whatsoever. Sad

We have a pond, but it's plastic underneath. As I can't get up there every day, keeping animals would be a non-starter, I'm afraid.

What would you recommend as good for mulching? The only thing I can really think of is chipped bark (which I difficult for me to get up there as I don't have a car - take that peak oil) or leaf mould. Which would probably mean me walking around the local park with a bin bag and gloves in autumn.
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