Temperate-climate agroforestry offers the potential for long-term ecological mutualism with humans and trees, and while it is time-tested in having sustained millennia of our ancestors, there are many hurdles to shifting lifeways toward agroforestry in 2020. In this post I introduce the main challenges I have identified, and I outline a potential approach to overcome these challenges. In short, that approach is an agroforestry worker cooperative that ‘owns’ (has rights of control, and rights to returns) land and practices stewardship so to advance tree crops and sustain itself.
I hope this clarifies opportunities that we can turn into realities, to support multi-generational stewardship of trees for basic needs in a way that is mutually beneficial to all relations involved.
The amazing abundance of trees from seed. Reforestation happens through a range of approaches, and from seed is one of the simplest, cheapest, and most time-tested of ways. It comes with pros and cons, the bad including relatively high loss and diversity of traits (such as shell thickness or fruiting time, which industrial operations seek consistency in). In such chaotic times diversity is good. This low-tech approach embraces loss en route to life. Life of the critters enjoying these trees & their seeds along the way, life that comes with the space and legacy of endings, life from letting life be as it will. Seed is a powerful source of sustenance, survival, and succession toward better local adaptation for chaotic futures.
Like the idea of trees and long-term improvement, enjoyment, environmental restoration, and if needed, sustenance? Hazelnuts are a tree you can trust to thrive easily and be enjoyable company. Measuring in at 18ft high and 15ft across, these beautiful bushes have been at the heart of our ancestors’ lives for many, many millennia. Food; some of the healthiest fats available to us. Fiber for homes and many essential crafts. Fuel as both coppice1 firewood and as-energy-dense-as-coal residues (shells and husks) for burning (is that true? nearly2).
Hazel is a gift in social resilience as well. A folk hero. How do all the gifts hazel offers sound as renewables, compared with other strategies for food, fiber, fuel, health and wellness? Fossil fuels and ‘renewable’ energy that depends on mining and toxic processing at industrial scales is degrading the foundations of life: water, soil, air, weather, ecosystems. How about a hedge of hazels instead?
How about a biocultural renewal? A deep adaptation? A relational agriculture that reciprocates and enhances nature’s gifts rather than degrading them.
If you could do one thing to make your community a better place what would you do?
via J.T. @ https://www.facebook.com/jerome516/posts/1082094282191807
This is a great question Jerome, thanks for sharing it and your thoughts. I would prioritize healthy, equitable agroforests through urban and rural landscapes. Trees that can help meet people’s basic needs (fiber, fuel, food, farmaceuticals, fun, +), in public parks and sidewalk green spaces, in yards, serving as bountiful fences, and texturing our agricultural landscapes, diets, and cultures. Acts of restoration, relinquishment, and resilience which ripple mass reforestation and good health.
Much love to the trees that have been with our northern climate ancestors who I’d hope to see in my area: hazelnuts, birches, maples, honeyberries, chestnuts, acorns, hickories, walnuts and pecans and that whole fam, elderberries, willows, spruces, and so many more.
More specifically, if it needs to be one single thing: cultivate a cooperatively-owned tree crop processing facility that can be used in the community and potentially as a regional hub, to help people meet their basic needs using trees. Areas of primary interest would be:
food (for biocultural restoration),
fuel (to heal fossil fuel addiction), and
fiber (to build resilience in the face of social environmental, and economic disturbances).
Interested in this also? Let’s talk and collaborate, let’s walk and exacerbate our own nuttiness, let’s squawck and walk the talk and elaborate on a way to initiate … do great or forsake. People ate acorns for millennia before they ate candy corns. Let’s make it happen.
A long term steward of the northeast, Sunchoke aka Earth Apple aka Jerusalem Artichoke aka Helianthus tuberosus. This plant is a sunflower species with a starchy, potato-like root that propagates itself (usually easily) from year to year.
In the video below, Ben Falk harvests and discusses a 400sq.ft. area that grows sunchokes year after year, with minimal maintenance, while building soil. This year’s harvest offers 90lbs of starchy “J-choke” tubers, leaving some in soil to regrow the patch for next year’s harvest. He notes using them as pureed soup after some slow cooking, as well as pickling and lactofermenting them. I have only had them a few times. When I cooked them I cut them thin and stir fried them, cooking them for a while and adding other veggies and seasoning into the mix. They are dense plants and feel like a good staple, able to significantly help mitigate ‘the hunger gap’ as Ben says regarding strains on food supplies and ecology. I look forward to growing, harvesting, and cooking more of this perennial plant ally.
Interesting science on how plants transmit light from surface into roots and out into otherwise-dark soil. Light triggers a cell, phytochrome, to produce a growth-guiding protein in plant leafs and shoots. This same type of cell exists in root tissue, and light received at the root tips via the plant’s light channeling fibers helps guide root growth via phytochrome.
Like plants, on the surface we receive sunlight and its archetypal analog, consciousness. Underground, at our roots, within us, we see that light reflected in elemental waters. The partner in polarity of the sunlight is the moonlight, as fire is to water, as consciousness is to subconsciousness.
“May peace be upon you.” Perhaps ‘you’ are the roots, and upon you the peace of a healthy plant. The plant too, or a human stewarding it, can be the ‘you’, and peace may be upon ’em too.
This is a basic plan for small-scale black walnut food sourcing. From gathering to use this entire setup can easily cost under $50 for black walnuts as a perennial food source, not including time or recommended ergonomic $100 Master Nut Cracker or better equipment to facilitate tree crop use and enjoyment. Many parts of this process are mulit-purpose and reusable.
This guide is intended to help the formation of small-scale black walnut cooperative enterprises, where people can work together to realize the abundance of tree crops. There are also farm-scale methods of cracking, sorting, and processing black walnuts, and value added products made using these nuts open many doors to enjoying this abundant nutritious food source. In some regions like around Hammons Black Walnuts in Missouri, there are more industrious scales and businesses for enjoying this tree crop. These nuts can be enjoyed simply as is or with enhancement – naturally suited to be sweet or savory – storing well and connecting us with age-old beings and traditions that are in our blood. A food for good living in good or bad times. May our relationship with this food source be accessible, equitable, and harmonious for all.
Black walnut trees are common in Central New York and thrive in a wide range. They provide timber and nutritious food. They begin fruiting in 5-10 years of age. Conserve those tree allies and their diverse communities that are present with us, propagate and cultivate future generations and enjoy them honorably. We can live in mutual benefit with the source of this regenerative food and with each other.
Gather nuts from a prolific and ideally free source, which are common in many places. Nut gatherers in the Ithaca, NY area reported that while in season, they stopped and visited trees when they’d see an abundance of nuts on the ground and were able to gather 10-15 gallons per minute. With various short visits to different trees, hundreds of gallons of nuts can be gathered. An abundance of medicinal and regenerative food growing on beautiful timber trees.
Love the way a forest floor is rich with roots. On a lawn or garden the roots you find are mostly of the plants proximate to them. In the woods, the soil is a fluff of organic matter and roots with nonspecific sources, almost impenetrable within its tightly woven softness. Roots everywhere, fibrous strands making up for lack of girth with their ubiquity.
I imagine this is akin to wizards (wise peoples): even if there is no apparent shoot (above ground plant), there’s likely a foundation full of fibrous roots. The source of those roots is effectively known yet ineffible: it’s from the trees! Sure, which one? It could hardly be said, and to declare it would neglect the interconnectedness of the root zone.
That said, is the wizard akin to a tree in that sense or to a forest? And how about the wizards woven through the world? An unseen sangha. שׁלום
A great episode of the Permaculture Podcast discussing the potential of wild plants to restore deep communal roots with humans and the ecosystems we live in and rely on. Plant intelligences, distributions of Mind.