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David Jacke/Mark Krawcyzk Agroforestry Book in Works

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  • Thu, Jul 23, 2015 - 01:12pm



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    David Jacke/Mark Krawcyzk Agroforestry Book in Works

FYI, I recently learned that Permaculture gurus David Jacke and Mark Krawczyk are working on a new book about sustainable agroforestry and silviculture. The book is supposed to cover case studies, history, and applications.

More information on the project is here:

They had a kickstarter campaign a few years ago, but they are still honoring the rewards if you want to contribute. I recently contributed and David replied that the funds are useful for acquiring and researching historical materials.

  • Mon, Jul 27, 2015 - 12:45pm



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    Fun Facts about Dave Jacke

I have two fun facts about Dave Jacke to share.

The first is that he was my RA when I went to Simon's Rock College oh so many years ago.

By random chance, he moved to Montague a few years ago, we met, and now he owns the house right up the street from mine, again by random chance.  His 'yard' is rapidly becoming a laboratory of plantings.


  • Tue, Jul 28, 2015 - 11:59am



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    Small world

It is a small world, my Wife went to Simon's Rock!

  • Tue, Jul 28, 2015 - 05:11pm


    Wendy S. Delmater

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    Silviculture.Silviculture is


Silviculture is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values. The name comes from the Latin silvi- (forest) + culture (as in growing). The study of forests and woods is termed silvology. Silviculture also focuses on making sure that the treatment(s) of forest stands are used to preserve and to better their productivity.

Generally, silviculture is the science and art of growing and tending forest crops, based on a knowledge of silvics, i.e., the study of the life history and general characteristics of forest trees and stands, with particular reference to locality factors.  More particularly, silviculture is the theory and practice of controlling the establishment, composition, constitution, and growth of forests. No matter how forestry as a science is constituted, the kernel of the business of forestry is silviculture, as it includes direct action in the forest, and in it all economic objectives and technical considerations ultimately converge. The kernel of silviculture is regeneration.

New word.  Awesome. (starts studying)

  • Tue, Aug 18, 2015 - 11:46am



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    Ben Falk on agroforestry and biological systems

Thanks for this thread and the links to the Coppice Agroforestry project.  For a couple of months now, I have wanted to share some of Ben Falk’s profound writing on this topic.  It's a bit long,  and I just got around to typing it up, but it's well worth the read.

The source is Ben Falk's The Resilient Farm and Homestead.  This is the guy who figured out how to grow rice in Vermont.  He does some incredible stuff, and the book is full of great info.

“Our task, then, at the dawn of the third millennium, is to transition from a society based on mining the most value as quickly as possible to a long-haul culture living not on the principal but on the interest. So how do we develop perpetual, interest-bearing systems from which we can live? We can start by looking at those places where human inhabitation has lasted millennia – and at those who dwelled in and did not despoil their homes.

In difficult dry regions of the Iberian Peninsula, a complex agroforestry system based heavily on the interactions between an oak-and-chestnut overstory and a grazed understory (using pigs and small cows especially) called the dehesa system was devised, likely in the first millennium AD. Grazing animals were rotated through the woodlands, with animals thriving primarily on the produce of the trees. The nuts offered a wellspring of fat and protein from year to year, with no pruning, no fertilizing (other than animal rotations), little disease pressure, no irrigation, no bare soil, no erosion, and complete groundwater recharging/moisture retention.  This kind of land use is the opposite of desertification. The productivity of the dehesa system has been found to be higher per unit area than any version of modern agriculture in Spain, when accounting for all inputs and outputs. At the same time, the quality of the system’s outputs is superior to those of modern agriculture: Chestnut-fed swine has long been regarded as one of the finest meats in the world, as flavorful as it is dense in nutrients, beyond comparison with grain-fed meats.

Why are trees – especially nut trees – at the basis of these regenerative land-use systems and highly adapted human cultures? In the simplest terms it has to do with inputs and outputs. A nut tree is simply more effective and efficient at converting sunlight and precipitation into value, over the long term, than any other technology humans have yet designed. This becomes clear when comparing biological systems in general with nonliving technologies. Consider a photovoltaic panel or wind turbine, for example. Each requires large and damaging inputs to generate a single output. What are the inputs of a photovoltaic panel? For one thing, bauxite from which to smelt the aluminum frame, as well as silicon and numerous other minerals (many only found in a dwindling number of difficult-to-access place on the planet). These all must be mined, transported, refined, transported again, then fabricated then shipped again.  All for one output: electricity.

What are the inputs required for a nut tree? At most an exchange between breeder and planter, transporting of the seed or seedling, some wood chip mulch, rain and sunshine.  And time. What are its yields? Oxygen, soil, wildlife habitat, moisture retention, carbon sequestration, air and water enhancement, human food, stock feed, building materials, shade, windbreak, and beauty, to name a few.

The former resource path of the photovoltaic panel – the abiotic – provides us with a practical service at great cost.  The latter, biological (or ‘soft’) path creates an enduring and generative legacy of positive value. And whereas a solar panel, wind turbine, or green building offers diminishing yields over time, a nut tree’s output actually increases, for at least the first century of its lifetime.

Such is the power  – and imperative – of biological systems. They are the only means we have of sidestepping entropy, at least for significant periods of time, on this planet. That’s what tips the balance; it all comes down to capture, storage, and transfer. The most functional human-land arrangement is the one that can harvest the most sunlight, moisture, atmospheric fertility, and biological energies, then accrue that value for the longest period of time while converting some of it into products and services that other living things such as humans, can feed on. Biological systems do this very well, while nonliving mechanical systems cannot.

In the modern era enough research has been done to quantify the advantage of cropping with trees over annual crops. Accepted yields for chestnut, for example are eight hundred to fifteen hundred pounds per acre. That rivals modern corn production on deep-soil land. However, the corn only produces such a crop with constant labor and fertility inputs each year, while reducing the land’s capacity to produce because of its erosive forces on the soil. A chestnut orchard, on the other hand, actually improves the land’s (and climate’s) capacity from year to year while it yields; it requires no bare soil or off-site fertility inputs, and it produces hundreds of crops from each plant on marginal, shallow-soiled land (far more of the earth’s cover type than deep-soiled land), while taking up less space than corn. And you can crop the same area with other species simultaneously; for example a chestnut orchard is also a pasture, also a game preserve/farm, also a place for understory berries and medicinal crops.

All in all, you can grow three to eight times the productive value (protein, fat, carbohydrate, BTUs, and other nutrients/values) via a tree crop system than with an annual input-dependent crop such as corn, and you can do so while improving the land from decade to decade. Indeed, tree cropping and ecological restoration can be performed simultaneously. Annual cropping the same land, year after year, however, usually leads to a ruined soil and culture even on flat lands (and always on steep lands unless it’s rice). Mesopotamia, much of Greece, and many other empires were once forested; now they are deserts.

Despite abundant human cleverness, we haven’t invented a better way to store energy than a stack of firewood. We haven’t yet devised a more effective means of capturing solar energy than by putting up a cow and hay in a barn through the winter. Biological energy harvesting and storage is what allowed us to survive to this point, and our experiments of replacing biological systems with mechanical and chemical systems have at best been delayed catastrophes. We must rely on some nonbiological aspects (the barn in the previous example), but wherever we do we compromise the system and our own returns in the long term. The minute a barn is built, it begins to decay. The famous comparison of a tractor with a draft horse highlights the entropy principle at work here: A tractor and horse are comparable in the amount of work they can achieve on a small piece of land, yet after a time the tractor dies and the horse makes another horse. Only life processes are regenerative. Hence, our prospects for thriving on this planet depend on our ability to partner with life forces.”


Falk, Ben. The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. White River Junction: Chelsea Green, 2013. p. 14-17  

Ben Falk’s website

  • Tue, Aug 18, 2015 - 12:09pm


    Christopher H

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    Re: Ben Falk


That excerpt may be long, but it is definitely worth posting in its entirety.  I ordered a copy of Ben's book and read it the first year it came out.  The first time I went through I highlighted what I found to be the most pertinent passages, occasionally I pull it off the shelf now and just go through the highlights.  I had forgotten about the passage you posted, but it certainly puts into perspective the central role that biological systems have to play in developing regenerative strategies.  I think that the extent to which we rely on technological systems (even things as basic as dimensioned lumber, plastic water storage tanks and petroleum fuel are part of this) has to be placed into the context of whether our work is helping to develop regenerative, biological systems, or if it is just technology for its own sake.

I constantly refer to a much shorter passage that he wrote on page 6.  I can't quote it exactly, but the gist of it is as follows: The foundation of a self-reliant nation must be self-reliant communities.  And the foundation of self-reliant communities must be self-reliant households.

  • Sun, Feb 28, 2016 - 11:16pm



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    Agroforestry in Wisconsin: Mark Shepard’s nut groves & grazers

This weekend, I watched Inhabit, a great film on permaculture in the NE and Midwest of the US.  

This clip from the trailer is from Mark Shepard's 100+ acre nut groves & grazing system on the oak savannah forest in WI.  He grows oaks, chestnuts, beechnuts, and hazelnuts and has pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, and ducks grazing through it.  He's built a bunch of swales as well so he has good water capture and erosion control, and he's doing permaculture on a much bigger scale than most.

The footage of his farm starts at 02:33:

My favorite quote of his is when he goes to the edge of his property to look at the neighboring farmer's corn field:

Corn has its place but it's definitely not over like 60% of the continent. Even in its prime there wasn't any more than 8 feet of photosynthesis going on there.  It may produce however many million calories per acre, but it's not an ecosystem.  There's no wildlife out there.

Their water actually runs off and comes into our farm and we collect it and use it here. Look how brown that cornfield is.  Look how green my trees are.

… if you look at all the yields of the different crops, hazelnuts, chestnuts, grapes, currants, and livestock gains and pasture forage, even if we got the low end of the range, of all of the crops we grow, we are outproducing corn by about 30% in terms of total human calories per acre.

  • Mon, Feb 29, 2016 - 10:52pm



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    Great footage of Sepp Holzer’s Kramaterhof (permaculture in AT)

This 33 minute video of Sepp Holzer's Kramaterhof in Austria is pretty up to date (posted Jan. 2015) and very lush!

I'm trying to figure out the best way to do swales and/or terraces on a steep hillside of marginal land here at the school, and since the Kramaterhof is steep and south-facing, like the land here, it's a helpful model.  But, a lot of the principles are more widely applicable.

  • Tue, Mar 01, 2016 - 11:33am



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    Love Sepp!

What Sepp has done is nothing short of amazing. His place is a paradise.

Swales make great sense, catch and keep what you have.

HughK, if you have any insights on how to catch and keep on karst terrain or you come across any articles please post them. We lose all our run off to our swiss cheese limestone, even our perennial creek drops into the underworld a couple of miles down stream.

  • Mon, May 23, 2016 - 03:16pm



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    Clear Sky and food forestry near Cranbrook BC: 18-19 June

Hey all,

For anyone who's in the Canadian West or American Northwest, there's a cold climate food forestry workshop happening near Cranbrook, BC on the 18th & 19th of June at Clear Sky, a meditation center up in those parts.  

The workshop leader is Richard Walker, who's been doing food forestry in Alberta and BC for over two decades.

I'll be there and I'd love to meet any PP members from that part of the world.  🙂


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