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The design of New Forest Farm

Chestnut with pigsI left you hanging in yesterday's post, so I figure several of you are probably wondering --- what exactly does Mark Shepard's farm look like?  He based his design on the natural oak savanna ecosystem, but replaced wild plants with productive, domesticated species and laid everything out in rows with 23-foot alleys in between the trees.  His primary species include:

  • American X Chinese chestnuts --- Those of us further south can just plant Chinese chestnuts, but Shepard lives too far north for the pure Asian stock to thrive and is experimenting with hybrids.  He plants his chestnuts 12 feet apart.
  • Apples --- Since Shepard is trying to make a profit from his farm products, the trickiness of growing blemish-free apples organically is something he had to figure out.  His solution is to use most of his apples for juice, to plant resistant varieties, to prune high, to graze in early spring to get rid of diseased leaves, and to let pigs eat the blemished fruits off the ground.  His apples are planted 24 feet apart.
  • American X European hazelnuts --- There's been quite a bit more breeding since I wrote this lunchtime series on the topic, but the ideas are the same.  In Shepard's system, hazels are planted four feet apart in rows with apples.
  • Berries --- Shepard also plants raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries, and grapes in the understory.  He trains his grapes onto tree limbs, then prunes the tree leaves above the grapes so the latter get plenty of light.
  • Edible and medicinal mushrooms --- These are grown on logs under the trees.

In the alleys between these trees and shrubs, livestock clip back the grasses and add another food (and income) source.  Shepard recommends using Salatin-style grazing, with the number of each type of animal based on the number of cattle.  For example, if your farm has just one cow, Shepard recommends two hogs (Tamworth, Red Wattle, or Berkshires), four turkeys, one sheep, and variable chickens (with the amount of chickens dependent on how much you want to feed them).  Geese or goats can replace sheep, although Shepard seemed very anti-goat.

I wish Shepard had given us many more details on his farm, but this is all I could pull out of his book!  Hopefully it will be enough to give many of you new ideas, though, just as it set me off on my tree alley experiments.

To learn more about the nitty-gritty of rotational grazing, check out Permaculture Chicken: Pasture Basics.

This post is part of our Restoration Agriculture lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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Could you speak to why this ratio was recommended?
Comment by Daniel Dessinger Wed Nov 13 00:07:19 2013
Daniel --- The idea with the animal ratio is to maximize the output without harming the pasture. Unfortunately, the author didn't go much into his reasoning, but I suspect it's based on data from Joel Salatin (since that's where most of the grazing information in the book seems to come from).
Comment by anna Wed Nov 13 08:22:59 2013
Nice site! I read this book and agree the book was hard to extract any useful specifics, although I agree with his copy the pattern not the details. Some details are useful, however. Does he put all of these tree/shrub species together? You mention apples and hazels together. So not chesnut? And the understory... under which one (if they are separate)?
Comment by Joseph Tue Aug 5 08:26:50 2014

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime