Hello fellow permaculture enthusiast. This is my parents aronia berry farm which they have given me leave to implement some permaculture practices around the farm. I know currently this is a monoculture, and the picture is quite old but any advice I can get is beneficial. We get about 30.5" of rainfall a year and it is located in zone 5a-b. Also keep in mind that since these pictures are quite old and the ground cover (rye grain/kentucky bluegrass) has grown through much more while the plants have doubled in size. Thanks for your time!
You'll need to ask yourself many questions, which I'm sure you already have, and try to come up with honest, real-life answers using whatever tools you have available and depending on what you are seeking. Anything from census data, to an ecology book (or better yet a person!), or a soil test.
What I mean is ask yourself why you're starting a farm. Is it for your own personal needs or a business? What resources do you have available in terms of time, money, experience or training, and collaborators or a mentor with any of these. What's your timeline? What are local resources like in ecological or human terms.
If you can share more questions and/or answers you should find much greater value in the comments from the fine bunch of people who frequent these forums.
Along with the important set of questions outlined above around what your own needs, desires, and skills include, also ask some questions around what the land's needs, "desires" and skills include.... Every landscape has an intrinsic agenda, usually involving a succession of native and perhaps exotic plants proceeding over many years towards a steady state, infrequently punctuated by restarts. A particular suite of animals, insects, fungi, etc. accompany the plants. Try to find out what this is, both by research and by observation of nearby sites in various stages of succession. Much of agriculture involves frustrating this process, often involving annual tillage or other forms of major disturbances. Weeds, sometimes including brambles, tree seedlings, etc. keep trying to move the system further along. You will make your work easier by considering how you might work with this process rather than against it. The general trend of permaculture thinking towards reliance on a diversity of perennial, often woody plants as opposed to annuals is a guideline following from this.
Thus, assuming you are in a climate that in its wild state supports some kind of forest (30 inches of rain a year in zone 5 reminds me of where I grew up in MI; even though you dont give your location), what kinds of useful trees could you incorporate into the system? You probably have wild trees trying to come up anyway.....
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I live in NW Iowa, and this venture is definitely a business. We just got our organic certification and will have our first harvest this fall. My main concern is increasing the diversity of the the cover crops. I would like nitrogen fixing plants like, as well as plants with a very deep and strong root system. The cover crop is my main goal because my parents still control the operations of the farm but want to pass it off. This last year of college I learned about the crazy voodoo science of permaculture haha, and they are't 100% open to my ideas yet. If I can take it step by step and prove to them it works then I will have autonomy to do what I please. I would love to be one of the largest organic aronia producers in the nation someday. If I can use the principals of biodiversity to improve the ecosystem I believe that per acre I will produce more than any aronia farmer who just has a bluegrass foundation between the plants. I will go back and try to answer more questions in a few days. I'm graduating saturday so things have been busy!
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