SILVOPASTURE: Integrating Trees, Forage, and Animals in a Farm Ecosystem
by Steve Gabriel with guest contributors
Over the last decade, the rapid growth of interest in more sustainable forms of agriculture is resulting in a boom of websites, videos, and books. In many cases, systems and techniques that researchers and farmers have been quietly researching and trialing for decades are finally finding their time in the spotlight.
Such is the case with Silvopasture, a time-testing farming system integrating trees, livestock, and forages together so that the farmer or homesteader can increase and diversify their yields while increasing the ecological health of their farmlands.
A new book is in the works by ecologist, author, and farmer Steve Gabriel. Over the past 14 years, Steve has passionately pursued work that re-connects people to the forested landscape and supports them to grow their skills in forest and farm stewardship. He currently works as Agroforestry Extension Specialist for the Cornell Small Farms Program and co-operates Wellspring Forest Farm and School in the Finger Lakes region of New York with his wife Elizabeth.
Steve is also co-author of Farming the Woods, a book which explores the cultivation of mushrooms, fruits, nuts, and more, all within the canopy of an existing forest. The book has been called "exceptionally useful" and "highly recommended" as a resource for temperature agroforestry.
The new book, tentatively titled Silvopasture: Integrating Trees, Forage, and Animals in a Farm Ecosystem, builds upon the success of Farming the Woods, offering a detailed look into the techniques, opportunities, and challenges of bringing trees, livestock, and pasture together. The book will highlight important research alongside stories of experts and farmers who have field tested silvopasture to know that it works.
Silvopasture systems offer farms and homesteads a remarkable array of benefits, from increasing the productivity of land and diversity of yields to sequestering carbon and building soil health. These remarkable farm ecosystems produce multiple yields and promote animal health and happiness. This book will offer the information and design techniques to help anyone get started in silvopasture successfully.
While Silvopasture as a practice is relatively small in the temperate US, interest and momentum is growing. The examples of specific systems are what really give us a sense of the possibilities. Just a short list of the varied systems includes:
· A black locust plantation for fence posts coupled with summer grazing pastures for cattle in central New York
· Oxen and pigs used to clear forested land in New Hampshire to create space for new market gardens and orchards
· Turkey used for controlling pests and fertilization on an apple cider and asparagus farm in New York
· Sheep who graze the understory of hybrid chestnut and hickory plantings to make for an easier harvest for a nut nursery in Minnesota
· Ducks rotated through a forest mushroom growing operation to reduce pest problems from slugs
While the book isn't scheduled for public release until Spring of 2018, the author plans to release several free articles on a regular basis and also promote a fundraising campaign in the coming months to support the book's development. Those interested are encouraged to to sign up for the book's email list to receive updates when they are posted.