Sunday, July 31, 2016

Restoration Agriculture with Mark Shepard

I've been working in the yard, and haven't had a chance to write about it. Mostly because I have a dozen, half finished projects on the go. However, in between I've viewed some video's, and would like to share the ones I was most impressed with.

I've not heard of Mark Shepard before, but now I'm glad I have. Because he's the first person I've seen address permaculture on a large scale, to feed civilisation. Joel Salatin does a great job of talking about the responsibility of taking care of the environment we grow our food in, but Mark Shepard talks about the destructive nature of annual crops and seeks to address it through perennial farms.

It's very educational. If you eat food, you should watch this.

If you also want to learn more about some of the details of setting up a perennial farm, there's another video utilising alley cropping, on Mark's, New Forest Farm. It's made by the University of Wisconsin, in their series on agroforestry.

Also, in this agroforestry series, is a video on Silvopasture, which is the running of animals, in the perennial system. The difference between Joel Salin's model and Mark's is, Joel is mimicking the prairie system, while Mark brings the animals into the forest.

Watching these video's has helped me understand how farmers can change the way they grow food. It's also helped me understand, how we can manage our own vegetation better. While I won't be doing it on the scale of a farm, I can scale to size, on our five acres.

Which leads me to the last video I'd like to share. It's made by the University of Guam (not to do with Mark Shepard) and deals specifically with windbreaks, hedgerows and alley cropping.

All this information has helped me see how we can make adjustments in our landscape, with a more permanent vision in mind. I hope you enjoy watching all these videos.

If you only watch one, however, make sure it's the first one. As it's the first time I've seen the way we feed our civilisation via annual crops, as destructive. Not because of all the usual suspects, such as chemicals and fossil fuels (although that is part of it) mainly because annual crops, by "nature", require destruction, in order to eat them.

Annual crops were never meant to be our staple diet. They were only meant to be complimentary to a broader system, that is permanent by nature.


  1. Nice list of videos, I"ll be watching. Mark Sheppard is from my area. His chestnuts appear at the co-op every fall so his plan has been working. He also sometimes teaches locally. I think he has it right for our geographic area-focus on longterm growth of food supply like trees….at least weeding doesn't become a chore in his system unlike an annual garden. His book is really good too.

    1. I wondered if he was somewhere near you, but I didn't realise he was supplying your co-op. His system certainly looks resilient, and I especially love how he's stacking crops on his land - working with both annuals and perennials.

      I'll have to see if I can borrow his book from the library. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Wow Chris, just watched the first video, it is scary, educational, and inspiring all in one!
    I had been thinking we need to grow more perennial stuff for ourselves anyway but the whole feeding civilisation that way is a massive shift, in mindset and world economies! Thanks for sharing it!

    1. It has that effect! I was both disheartened and enlightened by it too. He had a way of pinning the tail on the donkey, so to speak. Most conversations about big Ag, pivots around feeding the world or choosing starvation. He provides a workable solution, however, using natural alternatives to scale. Which is how nature has been farming globally, for millennia. ;)


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