Mark Shepard on Restoration Agriculture

As the soil continues to be depleted and as the climate continues to change, more resilient forms of agriculture will become the new normal. Here Mark Shepard of  Viola, Wisconsin discusses his methods which he calls ‘Restoration Agriculture’.

His system consists of utilising key line design for capturing, sinking and spreading rainwater (that would otherwise run off) and storing it in simple ponds on the ridges (the highest point where it can be stored without the use of pumps) from where it can be gravity fed to water crops, when it;s needed. He also plants the berms of his drain/swale features with a single file diversity of plants like apples and chestnuts which he treats using the STUN method (shear total utter neglect). With no further inputs beyond, planting, pre harvest prep and harvest, only intelligent design (like outcompeting the grass under his apples with daffodils, comfrey and iris’s that both attract pollinators, house beneficial insects and provide a yield which is sold to herbalists), he is able to produce diverse and abundant yields, With alley cropping and mob stock grazing between his berm tree plantations he is proud to produce more calories per acre than corn, all organic and with minimal labour costs, the nutrient value per acre of course is off the charts compared to GM corn production.

The most ingenious aspect that makes this truly permaculture, is that he has simply mimicked the natural oak savannah that covered the area prior to annual agriculture simply exchanging some flora and fauna with others that yield a greater value to humans and then managing the way they grow. It’s pure genius in my opinion, and the future of agriculture.

Expect to similar systems in BC soon, as the climate continues to get weirder and water intensive annual agriculture fails to keep up.


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