- 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;
- Turkeys used for controlling pests and fertilization on a cider orchard and asparagus farm in New York; and
- Sheep that graze the understory of hybrid chestnut and hickory trees at a nut nursery in Minnesota.
All of these examples share common goals, components, and philosophies. The systems may take several years to establish, but the long-term benefits include healthier animals and soils, greater yields, and the capacity to sequester atmospheric carbon better than forests or grasslands alone.
For all these reasons and more, Silvopasture offers farmers an innovative and ecological alternative to conventional grazing practice.
Copyright 2018. Softcover. 320 pages.
About the Author:
Steve Gabriel is the coauthor of Farming the Woods, is an ecologist, educator, and forest farmer who has lived most of his life in the Finger Lakes region of New York. He passionately pursues work that reconnects people to the forested lands and supports them to grow their skills in forest stewardship.
He currently splits his time between working for the Cornell Small Farms Program as Agroforestry Extension Specialist and developing the farm he runs with wife, Elizabeth, Wellspring Forest Farm, which produces shiitake and oyster mushrooms, duck eggs, pastured lamb, nursery trees, and maple syrup.
Praise for Silvopasture:
"A well-organized, practical guide to this centuries-old approach of land management." -Rebecca Thistlewaite, author if The New Livestock Farmer
Packed with information and practical examples for anyone interested in the benefits of trees and grazing for the health of soil, plants, herbivores, and human beings." -Fred Provenza, author of Nourishment
"The first port of call for farmers needing that extra information and confidence to take the step towards becoming agroforesters." -Martin Crawford, director of Agroforestry Research Trust
An important introduction to a type of agriculture that is both new and old
I really enjoyed reading and learning from this book. The author does a great job introducing silvopasture, first providing the necessary background in ecological principles and historical practices and then going through both the animal and plant sides of the equation. Rather than trying to do it all and get into the details of livestock management, he focuses on the aspects most relevant to silvopasture and discusses the pros and cons of different types of animals in this context. In particular, he discusses the potential problems with pigs in the woods and the need to manage them carefully. The chapter on forest management includes relevant information from the discipline of forestry but again applies it to the practice of silvopasture without trying to be too comprehensive. I was particularly interested in the chapter on bringing trees into pasture, as it made me think about options for my own grazing land and how that might work to integrate nut crops, nitrogen fixers, and shade trees that will add ecological and even economic value on multiple levels. Throughout the book, the author is frank about how much research still needs to be done on silvopasture techniques to better understand what constitutes the best and most regenerative practices. He urges caution and suggests starting with small-scale experimentation to avoid damage to forest ecosystems, emphasizing how silvopasture can best occupy the marginal ground between dedicated, high quality pasture and mature, healthy forest. This is an exciting new area of regenerative agriculture where we have the opportunity to once again reclaim some important historical practices and reframe them within the modern context with a greater sensitivity toward the need to manage for soil and ecosystem health.