We are writing a book about the practice, theory, and principles of Forest Farming based on our years of research and successful real-world examples.
Help support our work to document and connect forest farmers and to promote the promise of farming the woods.
We are an agroforestry professor & researcher (Ken Mudge) and an extension educator and forest farmer (Steve Gabriel). We have been researching and educating students, farmers, and landowners on these systems for the past several decades.
We are excited about Forest Farming. So excited, in fact, that we are writing a book about it through Chelsea Green Publishing with an expected release of Spring 2014.
What is Forest Farming?
Forest Farming is an agroforestry practice of growing non-timber crops under the canopy of an existing forest. The practice is both old and new, as historically many traditional cultures around the world have gained their sustenance through forest-based ecosystems.
Forest farming is different from forest gardening, which according to Dave Jacke is "gardening like the forest." In other words, forest gardening seeks to mimic the ways forests work in building a garden in an open space. Forest farming, on the other hand, is "farming IN the woods," using the existing canopy as the context for production.
In the temperate United States, agroforestry currently represents a small fraction of agriculture. That interest is rapidly growing as people look for more sustainable methods of farming. Forest farming offers woodlot owners the opportunity to grow a wide variety of unique and high-value fruits, nuts, mushrooms, medicinal plants, and more.
The income generation potential is very high for some crops (shiitake mushrooms and ginseng, for example), while others are more useful on a home scale. Landowners can make more of their property productive, and may enjoy tax breaks associated with farming the woods.
While Forest Farming provides yields to humans, the practice also encourages sound forest management benefitting the larger ecosystem. Forests maintain soil, clean water and air, and provide critical habitat for a wide array of species. Forest Farming provides a wonderful opportunity to mix production and conversation for the benefit of all.
Because forests can be more resilient than field crop systems in the face of temperature swings, fluctuations in precipitation, and large storm events, Forest Farms are poised to be critical to our future with the rapid onset of climate change.
About the Book
The book is the first of its kind. It is a resource for temperate climate forest farming that discusses context, techniques, and design considerations. The book will enable readers to begin farming their woods for hobby or profit.
Early chapters discuss the history and traditions of Forest Farming including detailed profiles of medicinal, food, ornamental, and tree crops that can be grown in temperate woodlots. The latter chapters include a pattern language, design strategies, and marketing tips to help ensure success.
You can read more about us, and see a table of contents and excerpts and us by visiting: FarmingTheWoods.com
Connect With Us
A big motivation for writing this book is to encourage dialogue and a greater expansion of forest farming in temperate regions. To this end, we are committed to collecting, telling, and facilitating the stories of established forest farmers and to connect them with new forest farmers. We will do this through three means:
1. Survey: Are you Forest Farming? Visit our website (http://FarmingtheWoods.com) for our survey of existing forest farmers. Help us document the stories and experiences of your work. The information will be entered into a database and presented as a free online directory and map.
2. Blog: Our blog at FarmingtheWoods.com will feature stories of the farms and people we visit.
3. Forest Farming Listserv: The Forest Farming Growers listerv helps practitioners new and old share advice, stories, and resources with each other. Sign up for this free email list at FarmingtheWoods.com.
What We Need
We want to visit and document many real world examples of Forest Farming in the Eastern and Midwestern US. We will interview forest farmers, document their sites, and write up case studies. Much of this information will be presented in the book, but also available as a free online map and database resource at FarmingtheWoods.com.
These free tools will to foster connection and collaboration among all who are learning to farm the woods. Your generous contribution helps us with travel and research of case studies. The face-to-face interviews and onsite examination of forest farmers and their land will provide crucial information and learned wisdom for the book and our website.
Your gift also pays for the development of the free online database and map. The book will be for sale, but the database will be a free public resource online, available to anyone interested in farming the woods.
What You Get
We deeply appreciate your support. Your donation will help encourage sustainable woodland use and a thank you perk from us. (see sidebar, right)
Other Ways You Can Help