Growing numbers of farmers are using agroforestry -- integrating tree crops and grazing animals -- to create more resilient soil, a diverse range of foods, and even fight climate change.
Shepard calls his approach “restoration agriculture” (that’s also the name of his recently published book), and his hope is to mimic nature as much as possible to produce high-quality crops while restoring the health and fertility of the land.
“There are two problems with agriculture — even organic agriculture,” said Shepard recently on the phone. “You are either trying to keep something alive that wants to die, or you are trying to kill something that wants to stay alive.”
Agroforestry — a broad term to describe ways in which forests and forest management are combined with agriculture — is key in understanding Shepard’s system.
Multi-species grazing on silvopasture — the intentional combination of livestock, forage, and trees on grass — now plays an essential part in the operation.
“We’ve generated numbers that show our system is capable of out-yielding corn by 30 percent on calories per acre,” says Shepard. “And as far as nutrition per acre, it’s off the charts. Then throw in the fact that the whole system is perennial — we don’t have any more planting costs, maintenance costs are minimal, no pest or disease control, no [fertilizer] inputs.”
Via Darin Hoagland