Farmland to Food Forest Regeneration and Silvopasture

Farms are meant to be a place of life. Where frogs sing and children play, birds dart and wild meadow plants thrive, the windfalls of ancient trees give food from nothing alongside rolling fields of ripening abundance, and every season the farmers work, the soil and water is left more and more alive.

A flaw at the center of both industrial and much of organic farming is that both still too closely resemble a factory instead of a place of life, and so lose the resilience and vitality of natural ecosystems. This isn’t anyone’s fault. Most farmers are not in it to get rich. Farming in America has long been a hard row to hoe, and it’s only getting harder.

using a laser to measure contour for digging a swale
We measure the precise contours of the land to plan a 600 foot long water and nutrient catching swale to help restore eroded hillside pasture in South Carolina. Interventions like these can lead to dramatic changes in water and soil health, but they require careful observation and design.

It is a difficult but pressing reality that high-input, high-production row farming isn’t working. Industrial and organic farming both create systems that are increasingly fragile – economically and ecologically.

Permaculture offers that the answer to having regenerative, resilient food systems is to learn from the soil-building, water-cleaning, diverse and resilient ecosystems around us and the practices of the deep-rooted old-growth cultures that tended those ecosystems for millennia without destroying the soil, water, air, or diversity.

Part of what those ecosystems and cultures teach is to grow diverse food in a way that is deeply harmonized with the qualities of the land. Two other key lessons from the resilient ecosystems of the Southeast are to integrate trees into our farmland and pastures and to work wisely with water harvesting to balance out the intensities of flood and drought.

In the Southeast, Pasture and farmland without trees is fragile in the face of drought, flood, wind, and insect and disease pressure. Trees at the proper spacing provide shelter, comfort, and sustainable food for animals (sometimes called “Silvopasture”), extra and long-term yields to financially support the farmers, erosion-prevention, aquifer recharging, wind-break, beneficial insect and animal habitat, shade for the farmers, buffering for the ever-weirder seasonal climate extremes, and – not to be neglected – beauty, which nourishes the souls of the farmers and the generations that come after.

Bringing permaculture design to farmland and transitioning to permaculture-inspired farming practices doesn’t have to be an all-at-once proposition. It does involve a leap of faith into the arms of the wild strength of earth. We can help you make the transition in a wise way that takes your personal context and the context of the land into account to help you grow and change in a steady and rooted approach, one step at a time.

Contact Us to see if we can be of help with your farm.