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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

by Barbara Corson of Dauphin, PA

For the past 70 years or so, industrial agriculture has been increasing CO2 levels in our atmosphere, depleting our soil, building up toxins in our environment, wasting the remaining oil, and devastating farming communities economically. Obviously, we need alternatives to industrial agriculture and more importantly, we need alternative farmers, millions and millions of them.

A parallel situation exists in forestry. After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic. People can’t live without forests and to put it even more strongly, there is no way to have a healthy planet Earth, without healthy forests. We need non-industrial forestry methods, and millions of people to practice them if we are going to have a livable future.

Thanks in large part to the long efforts of Small Farmers Journal and similar publications, there is increasing awareness of the problem of industrial agriculture, and, happily there are also people working on solving the problems of industrial forestry. In May 2012 I was lucky enough to attend a conference devoted to this theme.

The conference was held at Allegheny College in Meadville PA, in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. Forest products like hard-wood lumber are an important part of the economy in this area, and in fact according to some references, Pennsylvania produces more hard wood lumber than any other state in the US. In spite of this statistic, or maybe because of it, forest land in Pennsylvania is in decline; losing ground to “development,” invasive plants and insects, and environmental changes.

Sustainable Forestry

Local forest owners Troy and Lynn Firth were concerned about this trend, and in 2004 they started the Firth Family Foundation to protect and manage their timberlands in perpetuity. Realizing that there was a need for a broader conservation entity, the Firth family modified their foundation into the Foundation for Sustainable Forests in 2009. This non-profit organization is dedicated to forest preservation through sustainable forestry. As a land trust, the Foundation acquires forested land and manages it for ecosystem health, while at the same time supporting local jobs.

The conference in Meadville, called “Loving the Land through Working Forests” was the second annual conference hosted by the Foundation. The opening event, “A conversation with Wendell Berry” consisted of a reception followed by an auditorium presentation, and drew a standing-room-only crowd. For nearly two hours, the beloved author and ethicist engaged a panel and the audience in a discussion of forestry problems and potential solutions. The panel included Troy Firth of the FSF, Sarah Galloway (sustainability coordinator for the city of Erie), Terry Bensel (Allegheny College Environmental Studies), and Jim Finley PhD of Penn State University.

The second day of the conference consisted of a visit to a nearby wooded site currently being managed by the Foundation. Demonstrations of horse (and mule!) powered logging were ongoing throughout the day, with teamsters Ray and Bernie Blystone, and woodsman Patrick Maloney. In addition to the logging demonstrations, there were also several ‘concurrent sessions’ consisting of guided tours through the site. Session topics included “For the Birds” (management techniques that benefit birds and non-game wildlife) and “Reading the Understory” (using wildflowers and other understory plants to evaluate forest health).

The third concurrent session was called “Taking Hints from Nature.” This session was guided in part by Jason Rutledge, the president and founder of Healing Harvest Forest Foundation, based in Copper Hill, Virginia. Rutledge described forestry practices that set sustainable forestry apart from industrial logging and which are embraced by both HHFF and the FSF, including the following:

  • Respond to nature, don’t dictate — let the conditions recommend management rather than forcing management regardless of conditions.
  • Acknowledge that forestry is an art, not just a science. When it comes to understanding how trees and other parts of the forest community interact, science doesn’t have all the answers yet, so intuition and per- sonal experience must play a role.
  • Practice “worst first single tree selection” instead of high-grading or clear-cutting. Rutledge pointed out that much of our forested land is so degraded that it needs to be healed or restored before it can be sustained. Restorative forestry begins by identifying and selectively removing diseased or deformed trees and leaving healthy trees behind to grow with reduced competition. The increased health of the forest translates into increased economic value over time as well. In contrast, high-grading and clear cutting are analogous to “killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”
  • Use horses or other draft animals and a well-designed logging arch to move logs from the stump to a roadway. This minimizes damage to the remaining trees, the soil, and waterways. Rutledge explained that using draft animals to extract timber is slower than using petroleum-powered machines and although this is seen by conventional foresters as a negative aspect, from an environmental point of view it is a positive. Speed translates as damage to the forest and as in agriculture, the speed and “efficiency” of petroleum fueled forestry has disruptive socioeconomic effects as well. Slow Wood is just as desirable as Slow Food!

Sustainable Forestry

Of course using draft animals for power requires more skill than using ma- chines and the lack of skilled teamsters will be a limiting factor in efforts to create the millions of alternative foresters we will need in the future. A primary purpose of Rutledge’s non-profit HHFF is to address that problem through offering apprenticeships and private instruction in horse-powered logging. Rutledge calls his prote?ge?s “biological woodsmen” to emphasize their understanding of forest ecology and differentiate them from conventional loggers. Two of the woodsmen at the conference, Ray Blystone and Patrick Maloney, were former HHFF students.

Following the concurrent sessions on Saturday, participants gathered under a tent for a final discussion. I can’t say that we reached a definitive statement of how we should solve the problems facing us, but it was encouraging to see such a diverse group, including landowners and farmers, academicians, government representatives, and practicing horse-loggers gathered together with a common goal. There was a consensus that what FSF was doing was providing a great example and inspiration for many, especially those lucky enough to attend this wonderful conference. I know I will be looking forward to the third annual FSF conference as well as watching for more events like this to continue my education! Here are some references for those who may want to learn more:

FSF website www.foundationforsustainableforests.org

HHFF website www.healingharvestforestfoundation.org

Sustainable Forestry

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

The Milk and Human Kindness: What I’ve Learned of Tri-Pod Haymaking

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I have no doubt that when the time comes we are going to need to know how to make hay this way, whether it be this Proctor Tripod method, or the French rack method illustrated in André Voisin’s great book “Grass Productivity” or the Scandinavian “Swedish Rider” method of tightly strung wire “fences” for hay to dry on. Each method has its pros and cons, and it’s my belief that the “Swedish Riders” is the easiest to learn and the Proctor Method may be the most difficult.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 2

How do you learn the true status of that farm with the “for sale” sign? Here are some important pieces of information for you to learn about a given selling farm. The answers will most probably tell you how serious the seller is.

The First Year

The First Year

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Prior to last year, I had felt I knew the nuances of the land quite well and fancied myself as knowledgeable about the course of the natural world. Outdoors was where I felt the most comfortable. The fresh air and endless views of fields, hills and valleys renewed my spirit and refreshed my mind. I didn’t think there was much that could fluster me when it came to the land. Until I became an organic farmer.

LittleField Notes Farm Log

LittleField Notes: Farm Log

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My starting every column with a discussion of the weather set me to thinking about that old clichéd idea of talking about the weather; how it is all old men talk about downtown at the local coffee shop; how they sit for hours telling endless lies about how the snow was deeper, the nights colder and the hills steeper when they were young. However, clichés have basis in truth, and it is true that weather is a wonderful conversation opener.

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Congo Farm Project

Congo Farm Project

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I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.

Littlefield Notes Fall 2012

Littlefield Notes: Fall 2012

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Why horses? We are knee deep in threshing oats and rye when I find after lunch that the tractor won’t start. Press the ignition switch — nothing; not even a click. I cancel the day’s threshing and drive thirty miles to the tractor store and pick up a genuine-after-market IH part. Come home, put in the new ignition switch and still nothing. When we need the horses they start right up, without complaint — every time.

Organic To Be or Not To Be

Organic: To Be or Not To Be

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How do our customers know that we’re accurately representing our products? That’s the key, the reason that a third party verification system was created, right? I think this is the beauty of a smaller-scale, community-based direct market food system. During parts of the year, my customers drive past my sheep on their way to the farmers’ market. At all times of the year, we welcome visitors to our farm. In other words, our production practices are entirely open for our customers to see.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

A Year of Contract Grazing

A Year of Contract Grazing

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Contract grazing involves the use of livestock to control specific undesirable plants, primarily for ecological restoration and wildfire prevention purposes. The landowners we worked for saw grazing as an ecologically friendly alternative to mowing, mechanical brush removal, and herbicide application.

Sustainable

Sustainable

Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

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The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT