Forests, Ken Mudge and Steven Gabriel write, have long been humanity's pantry, where our species and many others have found the food, medicines and materials needed for survival. It is only within the last few hundred years, that we have become, as the saying goes, unable to see the forest for the trees. Land populated primarily with trees often only means lumber or an uncleared building site.
Farming the Woods seeks to remind readers of those days, encouraging and enticing future forest farmers with thoughts of savory mushrooms, sweet saps, hearty nuts, and the rich meat of animals raised under the leaves, presenting all a farmer needs to begin making that dream a reality.
Following a brief overview of forest farming history, Mudge and Gabriel take an indepth look at the complex weave of forest ecology. It begins with the abiotic (non-living) elements such as latitude, precipitation and landform and carries on to the plants, animals, insects and birds that make the forest their home. Learning to work within these boundaries and with these partners using principles akin to those in permaculture is a forest farmers ultimate key to success. By maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem, farmers can mitigate run-off, prevent erosion and provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficials while harvesting a useful and potentially profitable crop.
Along with food and medicinals, chapters on wood products, nursery management and woodland animal husbandry are also offered. After whetting the reader's appetite with the possibilities, the authors discuss designing and managing a forest farm. Charts, diagrams, case studies, and checklists abound throughout, along with clear explanations of sometimes very scientific information.
Climate change too is a dominant theme. Mudge and Gabriel state that forest farming is flexible enough to withstand the chaos the world is already experiencing and of that to come. While the future won't be without its disasters (something they advise farmers to always plan for anyway), the inherent resiliency of forest systems is something the grower, and subsequently humanity, can count on.
Farming the Woods is sure to become a trusted companion for all farmer types. Whether one plans to solely work the forest or to use forested ground as a working farm, Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel have crafted a tome destined to become a classic. The calm, friendly and knowledgeable voices of experience present a well-written book that will be useful for generations.
Joan Bailey writes about food, farming and farmers’ markets in Japan www.japanfarmersmarkets.com
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