Food Forest Farm helps people create low-maintenance, regenerative food systems. We grow, supply, and teach about perennial vegetables and other multipurpose plants. We help our customers create low-maintenance, resilient food systems. We are at the heart of the movement to relocalize, regenerate, and re-skill our communities.
Last night it was 10 degrees F outside the greenhouse and 43 degrees F inside the “figloo”. As the winter proceeds I will continue to check on the
temperatures and observing the condition of the figs, as well as the perennial kale and artichokes that are also under the insulation of the figloo.
I'll be writing more about the details of this system, including all the techniques that are being used to hopefully keep the fig tree trunks alive
So after four months of patient tender care, fig fruit have started to ripen! The picture above is showing
Ronde de Bordeaux left, Saint Rita longer pink/green skinned almost ripe to the right.
As the days draw towards fall, more figs will come ripe (hopefully) and I'll be able to have a sense of the early varieties with good flavor. Most
likely if we get enough warm days between now and the end of September, most of the other fig fruit will be harvested and eaten. Otherwise we'll wait
until next year, as all the trees will have deep roots and can produce and ripen fruit more consistently.
If you'd like to be the first customer to purchase and grow these tasty, early to ripen, hardy figs, get your order in now at the FoodForestFarm.com/Shop and buy some fig tree cuttings today!
Starting February 2018 new plant seeds were prepared and sprouted inside in flats to give them a head start going into the growing season. With a little
tender care (inside and outdoors), including watering, weeding and transplanting, many of the successes now can be shared.
Leading up to this project, I did significant research to understand the potential of underutilized livestock forage species. There is a lot of information
out there about plants that have been planted around the USA and world that are good, but have lost favor in the "market" or conventional grazing industry
for various reasons. OR, there are plants that are grown for other industries but have potential as forage for livestock in new configurations, like
Here is pictorial run through of some of this years' seedling successes (although they need a full winter, and tested as animal fodder before we can
give them the thumbs up):
Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)
Big Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) with
Willows (Salix sp.)
Chickpea Milkvetch 'HiPal' (Astragalus cicer) on the right
Empress Tree (from potted plant, Paulownia tomentosa) with Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa)
Mulberry (started from dormant branch cutting Morus sp.) with Black Locust (started from dormant root cutting Robinia pseudoacacia)
Indigo Bush (Amorpha fruticosa)
As this trial continues my plan is to update findings on this blog. Ultimately those species that turn out to meet the following characteristics will
win out and I'll publish details about them, including hardiness, palatability, vigor, growth habit, and polyculture potential.
I’m continuously amazed when witnessing the tenacity of life in the world around me. In particular is the viewscape along the highway between Western Massachusetts
and Central New York. While driving along the highway, the scenic beauty and hundreds of years of agricultural history is obviously there, what strikes
me particularly is how extensive the shrubland has become in these communities. New York estimates there’s nearly 3 million acres of unused and underutilized
non-forest land in the State.
And there’s a confluence creating this enormous fallowing, including high tax rates, changing demographics, and socio-economic instability etc. So, what
I’m witnessing on that drive is hundreds of miles of mid-succession in the northeast temperate forest biome, or more simply fields turning back to
You might be asking why is this so interesting or striking? I could answer, what I am, you are witnessing, is the collapse of New York’s farm economy.
You can find other indicators from increasing unemployment, to a rising opioid epidemic, political disfunction (I’m talking about you Mr. T), the constant
threat from the hydraulic fracking industry, and there are many other signs.
So, what might a regenerative agricultural practitioner, like myself, offer in such a situation? How might these “problems” point to a solution?
I think it is important to connect this regional observation to the larger web of disruptions throughout the globe. One of the largest being the rise in
global CO2, from 280 ppm in the interglacial period to 407 ppm today. There is no doubt, clearing of forests, destruction of soil, and the burning
of fossil fuels, all human disturbances, have gotten us to this accumulation. One that is creating a wildly undulating global weather situation, with
a difficult to predict outcome (although it is now pretty clear the outcome will be dire if business as usual continues.)
What comes out from this analysis is not only is our global socio-economic system, and humanity for that matter, under overwhelming stress, but, from a
scientific perspective the carbon cycle is, well, TOTALLY FUCKED UP!
YYYEEET, at the same time, the old fields, like the picture above, continue to grow into shrubland.
What are those fallow field shrubs, perennial grasses, and soil their roots are in made of?
The same carbon in the C of CO2. Carbon as problem becomes carbon as solution.
More and more this realization is leaking into the halls of power. We need this solution to move up to the top of the priority list. We need communities
throughout New York and everywhere to see underutilized, degraded, and fallow land as an opportunity for healing, an opportunity for economic renewal,
and an opportunity for regeneration.
What I’m proposing is a grand project for New York, what I’m calling reNewLand.
Picture by Jonathan Bates of Shelterbelt Farm (example of what could be)
reNewLand draft mission statement:
"We are a one gigaton carbon drawdown project that covers millions of acres over multiple Northeastern states leveraging biomass and silvopasture to renew
marginal and underutilized non-timber agriculture lands. This project is a jobs program starting in New York that plants millions of trees for energizing
a cascade of regeneration, manifesting true wealth for local economies, including clean water and food, healthy soil, increased biodiversity and real work."
Below I've included a mindmap that generally outlines the different parts of the project
This project is not about bringing us back to some golden bygone age of economic prosperity and industrial agricultural growth. The pinnacle of the 20th
century was “better living through chemistry”, in the 21st century BIOLOGY is remembered as the driver of a clean, healthy food system. Food being the
foundation of any human endeavor, might a redesign of the local, regional and global food system be a creative way to meld a more thoughtful, kind, and
This project will need lots of money, land, hands and minds. Call me to get involved 413-588-8435
You may also enjoy these ideas put to story...
"Imagine walking into a warm, vibrant, supportive space where people come together to celebrate themselves, their families, and the community, land and
animals around them. People are laughing, drinking and eating and gathering the foods and other life supporting needs for the week… fruit, vegetables,
meat, dairy, companionship, fresh air, inspiring beverages, and many other goods.
You go outside to enjoy the abundant fruit and nuts dripping from orchard branches, see happy sheep munching breakfast, and watch bees making their
golden honey. You meet up with a few folks gathered around an artesian spring, drinking down the sweet refreshing water together. You remembered to
make one last stop inside and see that the space is heated with prunings from the orchard and woodlot.
Waving goodbye to your friends on your way out you grab a few bags of biochar to take home for the garden. Following you on the bike ride home is
a co-operatively owned bio-oil truck caring the carbon negative fuel you and your neighbors will need to stay cozy during the coming winter."