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.
SPLASH FIGHT BITE All was alright in the world, as I was moving toward the light Looking for some food so I’d sleep well through the night And awaken another day My mouth becomes open !!! Woah I am awoken ! I spread my wings and make like a cross Then my world is tossed – tension to release; anticipation to closure; potential to kinetic So, It is written Now I make like the moss (gratitude to the roots, foundations of the Kingdom) Growing slowly through the churning fires of Time Now at the turning of the rhyme, I ask: Have I eaten or been eaten?
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.
Notes from “Social Resilience and Urban Design: NYC and the COVID-19 Pandemic” webinar (hosted by architecture and urban design firm Cooper Robertson) with inspiring points made by Raymond Figueroa-Reyes and other speakers.
As we look to community gardening to provide food, as it has in the past (e.g. ~40% of food in U.S. during WWII; Cuban urban farming during its Special Period food shortages), we can look to Worker Protection Gardens and Community Gardens during the Industrial Revolution and Redlining period respectively.
Food hubs are on regional scale, but we need to bring them up in micro-scales, as distributed infrastructure for basic needs. Emergent food hubs can help aggregate and distribute food available from existing production systems as well as community gardens. (One example is in the Bronx worked on by this webinar’s speaker Raymond Figueroa-Reyes and others.)
Trickle up economy: focusing support to empower communities with micro-food systems, and the benefits will rise up through the system, growing diversity and resilience.
One idea for ‘where is the real limit’ is ‘first principles’, meaning the phenomenon studied by natural sciences.
For example: according to the patterns (we sometimes call laws) in physics, biochemistry, and agroecology, is it feasible to grow food in monocultures that rely on external inputs and petroleum products? Not for the long haul, not at all. Yet we do it, and further, we rely on economic systems (e.g. multinational corporations, global prioritization of financial profits) that make it difficult to do the opposite! (Opposite being, for example, ‘restoration agriculture’ or cultivating highly productive, highly diverse agro-ecosystems that mimic natural ecosystems in structure and function over time and space.)
Economics (as in, how we manage our ‘households’ at different scale) and political will is often where we stray from first principles (for some time). We can economically incentivize all we want, we can make all the political noise we want, but eventually we get constrained by higher and broader drivers. “The buck stops”…here and now, in accordance with natural trends and constraints.
We’ve pushed well out of bounds, so it will take some change to get back ‘within our limits’. A framework to work on is ‘relinquishment, resilience, and restoration’ a la deep adaptation (https://jembendell.com/2019/05/15/deep-adaptation-versions/). May peace be upon you.
Small-Scale Distributed Integrated Resilient Agroforest Ecosystems…Buzz words buzzin’ like bees and birds
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GINQvtKaZGY “So here is a way to get a wet area to be a pond, well-drained raised garden beds, focused nutrient delivery system, and a propagation space for hardwood cuttings, in an area that was just kind of mucky and filled with grass and shrubs.”
Here’s a nice video on entropy and order. Is forest gardening lowering or increasing entropy in its local system, in our Earth system?
How can one’s potential be best enabled, for one and all? Non-violence (aka non-aggression principle; harm principle; “first, do no harm”). Can we do that justice, for past-present-future generations?
We must work together, yet we can only do the work of oneself. Let us do one’s work without impinging on the ability for the same by one another. It is bad to act beyond one’s need and thus impede the ability of another to fulfill their need. Whether for water, shelter, warmth, . . .
The moral to the story is…your addiction to your needs and your
wants is what causes problems in your life. Make sure you got whatcha
need. Put at a safe distance all the things that you want. It’s wants
that get you into trouble.
Awesome footage of Finger Lakes-based Edible Acres plant nursery and homestead:
@1:44 Cool contrast of the land cover texture at Edible Acres forest garden alongside neighboring sparsely-treed lawn. From sunshine to complex, interdependent and diverse self-regenerating life and succession.
Overview of some low-tech approaches to propagate thousands of trees in modular, portable forms. Young, 1-2 year old trees can be grown this way then transported & transplanted bare-root into the ground, low-cost and resilient.