There is a possibility that a 7 acre cherry orchard could fall under the care of my husband and i. While we are excited about the possible opportunity, we are concerned about the possible challenges:
The orchard has been farmed conventionally for at least 20 years. I'm not sure when these practices started originally, but the trees were almost all replanted in the mid 1980s. They have definitely been farmed conventionally (ie chemically!) since then. We are deeply committed to permaculture and organic practices that nourish the earth. It would be a dream come true to turn this 7 acre cherry orchard into a thriving, integrated, fully alive system.
Does anyone have experience converting from conventional to permaculture on this scale?
What might be the challenges that lay ahead?
Will the trees be strong enough to make this transition?
these tree are 30yrs old and so are pretty much at the end of their productive life.
So I would kill them and replace them with a food forest.
Chestnut>Cherry/Prunus>Hazelnut>grape/kiwi vine>goose/cane berries>herbs>groundcover like strawberry/sqaush/vegetables.
In between theses roows you can grow grass/pasture for sheep/etc
If you cant do all of that you can replace ever other row of cherry with something else.
You can also just plant berries/herbs/vegetables under the cherry trees and use a few of the trees to growgrape/kiwi vines.
The ending of life cycles.. much food for thought there. Replacing old trees with new varieties would be a great way to bring the vitality adn resilience back to the land.
The property is in Northwest Montana on the shores of Flathead Lake- definitely a tiny niche where cherries will grow. Do you have any resources to learn about other perrenials that are sutiable to the climate there?
Thanks for the info and support. I feel the need to preserve the life that's there too- right now my family and i own no land, no trees, no home... the thought of a single fruit tree that we could tend to for years to come is of dreamlike proportion in my mind. The challenge comes when i think about preserving the life of so many trees while converting to organic methods. How do we take trees that have been treated with chemicals their entire lives and covert to organic methods without leaving them super susceptible to whatever pest might be around?
My idea would be to replace trees as they come to the end of their lives. Who knows maybe the next 1000 year old cherry tree is living right there?
A common problem with many conventional orchards is that they remove any living thing on the land that isn't a fruit tree. They are often a single type tree orchard. That is a vector for diseases and pest insects. There is no balance in the flora, nor the soil beneath your feet. It also means that pollinators (honey bees) need to be imported each year to service the trees.
A rich variety of other plants is beneficial to both the trees, and the soil. Besides edible perennials in the understory, a regionally selected wildflower mix will improve the balance. With ample native wildflowers, you will be providing both food and habitat for the native pollinators. Most of the pollinators flew away once the orchardists cleared the land of their preferred food and habitat. It may take time, but they will return if you provide for their needs.
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