Agroforestry in Fractal Environments

A recent 3 day workshop at the Grange Farm School featured an interesting combinati12440257_10154013385631823_8267778958275639379_oon of presenters and topics.  One was Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm, Restorative Agriculture Development Inc, and author of Restoration Agriculture representing a variety of techniques aimed at optimization of solar energy and water for food production.  The other was Spencer Smith of the Jefferson Hub of Holistic Management representing the details of an integral part of Restoration Agriculture: holistic planning both for finances and land management.

The combination of topics inspired workshop attendees to think outside their boxes and explore new ways of seeing the landscape.  My landscape vision was bolstered with an understanding of hydrology on the watershed scale, to the point where I now see keypoints, contours, and erosion and think to myself: how could we engineer a sequestration system that would help capture the free resources that fall from the sky and sink them into the land?

A few visits to our campus hillside helped us all to see that nature is fractal and understanding the patterns is the first step before implementing strategies.  The hillsides that surround the school are generally covered in oak savannah, with slopes and vegetation that are mirrored on our 4 acre knoll.  Management strategies identified for the Grange Farm School could be scaled up to the surrounding environment in a way that would capture the 51 inches of average rainfall and grow greener grass longer into the summer, perennial crops, or trees.

We identified a keypoint (P A Yeomans inspired) and used a laser level to flag our contour lines and parallels.  The group began to see where water could be stored and how gravity would take part in the passive irrigation system.  Next we learned about alleycropping and silvopasture- both concepts that will be experimented with on campus.

The weekend wrapped up with financial planning concepts that helped transform dreams into realities.  In order for these restoration agriculture practices to succeed, they have to pay, and only then can we expect large scale food production to shift.

The more we are able to think in terms of patterns and contexts, the more successful we will be at converting this planets’ resources into food sustainably.

Interested in learning more? The Practicum Student Program features lessons and tutorials on Holistic Management for land planning and finances, as well as hands on demonstrations of restoration agriculture.

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