Into the Woods: Case Studies for the Book

Our Indiegogo campaign strives to meet a basic need for writing our book: to visit and document a wide array of real world examples of successful forest farmers. This research will produce case studies to support the practical information we will publish about growing non-timber forest crops.

Case studies offer a glimpse into the future potential of forest farming. While the concept may be new to many of us, there are silent farmers and gardeners working all over the US (and beyond), growing non-traditional crops like mushrooms, ginseng, and hickory nuts. We want our book to encourage dialogue and a greater expansion of forest farming in temperate regions. To this end, we are committed to collecting, telling, and facilitating the stories of established forest farmers and to connect them with new forest farmers.

In 2013, we will visit sites in the Northeast, South, and Midwestern United States. We are currently developing a database based on sites we know, contacts with local extension and soil and water office. Submissions to our survey of current Forest Farmers is also building our database. If you are currently farming the woods, or know someone who is, we ask that you help us collect survey responses by visiting the survey on our website.

We are currently planning for a research trip to the Midwest. This trip brings us to one of the colder temperate regions of the US, and should offer insight into the challenges and opportunities of tree-based agriculture. Despite the challenging environment, some of the most incredible examples of woody agriculture exist in Wisconsin and Minnesota. They include:

Field&ForestField and Forest Products: The company started with the owners and fungiphiles Joe Krawczyk and Mary Ellen Kozak, who are committed to “raising ecological awareness about our woodlands while improving timber quality by promoting timber stand improvement practices to generate the beginnings of a mushroom crop.” They are a premier spawn producer in the U.S., running a high-quality spawn lab offering strains of shiitake, oyster, lions mane, plus a host of other mushrooms for hobby and commercial producers. Dedicated to their work, which includes educating new growers. They offer incredible customer service and support for troubleshooting mushroom growing challenges. We are excited to visit and document their lab and field work which includes some of the longest running mushroom variety trials in the United States.

Menominee Forest: Located 40 miles northwest of Green Bay, Wisconsin, the 234,000-acre Menominee Forest covers 95 percent of the Menominee reservation and contrasts sharply with the surrounding farms. When the reservation was established by treaty with the U.S. government in the mid-nineteenth century, the forest held an estimated 1.2 billion feet of timber. After 125 years of logging, it has produced 2 billion feet of timber, yet 1.5 billion feet are standing now and the quality of the trees and diversity of species is improving. We look forward to exploring this forest as a model for what sustainable forest management–a critical aspect of forest farming–really looks like.

MarkShepBookCoverNew Forest Farm: Amidst the sprawling corn fields of Southwestern Wisconsin lies one of the most developed and productive perennial farms in North America, a critical example of the potential for growing an abundance of food while sequestering carbon, building soil, recharging groundwater, and enhancing wildlife habitat. Mark Shepherd and his family steward the landscape while teaching permaculture courses to the public. Our visit will shed some light on the potential of polycultures: mixtures of crops that can be grown successfully together in a production system. Mark just released a book about the farm called Restoration Agriculture.

Badgersett Farm: Run by Phillip Rutter and others, Badgersett first planted nut trees on the farm more than 25 years ago, engaging in a rigorous selection process of selection and propagation. The result is one of the best living libraries of hybrid hazelnut and other but trees. The expressed goal of the farm is to design and develop the plants, tools, and techniques needed for profitable woody agriculture; to produce main-crop food staples from woody plants; to make these tools and plants available to others; and to support the new crops and farmers as they grow. Touring this amazing site will yield considerable learning for our sections on nut production in the book.

This list is just a sample. As we talk with growers, extension agents, and universities we continue to find more sites that illuminate the practice of Farming the Woods. Can you assist by connecting us to more forest farmers? Please contact us if you know more sites in the upper Midwest. Your contribution to our campaign also is also needed. Your gift of $50 or more can help get us to the Midwest to share the stories online for free and in the upcoming boo. We will express our gratitude with a signed copy of the book when it is published in 2014!