What’s this “perennial agriculture” I keep talking about you say?
In a nutshell, it’s creating a food system that, once planted, continues to produce food and useful-to-humans crops without human interference.
“Potentially three to seven times the energy capture as an annual field, and most significantly, it’s all perennial. Plant it once and you’re done. Forever. Any questions? No plowing ever again. It’s three-dimensional. It’s diverse. It takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and adds carbon to the soil in the form of roots, leaves and wood. It provides habitat to wildlife, wild pollinators. It recycles nutrients and attracts birds like you cannot imagine. Chestnuts, apples, hazelnuts, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, currants, goosberries, grapes, mushrooms and animals. Sounds like a healthy farm to me!”
Did you catch that part? “Plant it once and you’re done. Forever.”
That’s perennial agriculture.
Forest culture, alley cropping, silvopasture, Fred — whatever trendy label or name is put on it, perennial agriculture is simply generating food more in line with how nature works.
It’s abundant. It’s sturdy. It doesn’t use oodles of petroleum in the form of gas-powered equipment or petroleum-based chemicals to force it into the levels of production required to make an annual cropping system profitable enough to keep up with the demands of, well, the high costs of an annual cropping system that’s working against nature.
This here farm we love so much has ooooodles of chestnut trees, which are a high-carbohydrate staple food. Around those gorgeous chestnut trees we will be planting heritage apple and cherry trees, for food, juice, vinegar and cider. Then come hazelnut shrubs, another staple food crop that’s good for both food, oil, and the shells can be used for fuel. Then more small fruits (raspberries, gooseberries, currants, etc), mushrooms, and critters. We already have chickens, and we will be introducing ruminants as we learn about them. (We intend to focus mainly on fiber animals, because while we’ve done both, raising chickens has confirmed for us that we much prefer to snuggle our animals rather than snack on them.)
We’re also going to plant sweetgrass, milkweed and a variety of pollinator-supporting wildflowers and useful perennial herbs. The land has a broad range of microclimates, and we can tuck all kinds of useful, self-maintaining nifties around the farm.
I’m personally really excited about planting all four ingredients for Essiac tea, and installing patches of woodland medicinals in the wooded areas. The idea of gifting useful plants — especially ones that people might be in dire need of — gives me major warm fuzzies.
Anyhoo! Perennial agriculture. Plant it once, share it forever. There you go!