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Top ten crops for Forest Farming?

 
Rob Read
Posts: 86
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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I am hoping Steve, and others, and chime in with their favourite profitable crops.

To restrict this a bit, let's leave timber out, for this thread - though it would make a good companion thread, if others are interested in that.

Some ideas to start the ball rolling:

Medicinal herbs: american ginseng, goldenseal, wild leeks
Syrups: Maple, Black Walnut, Sycamore
Fungi: Oyster mushroom, chicken of the woods, shiitake

With the exception of maple syrup, all these come from 'book learnin' for me - so I'm curious to hear what others have had success with actually getting to market and 'making the big bucks' with.

I love the concepts involved here, because it brings foraging into a larger economic position (as it already has for, say, mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest), but also works on restoration in some ways, since many of the forests in my region are now devoid of things like wild leeks due to inappropriate past grazing operations in forests. (And let's leave the invasives issue to the side for now, though with the exception of shiitake (and maybe oyster mushroom?), all of the above are native in my region.
 
Kim Hill
Posts: 78
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Rob, are you only interested in food crops? I know a lot of people who also make art items from things found in the forest. One makes beautiful burned carvings on large flat mushrooms found on trees that look like dryads saddle. There is also basket making.

If you are only interested in food the obvious ones for me are nuts and berries along with mushrooms.
 
Rob Read
Posts: 86
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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Kim: Those all sound great - I love the idea of fibre and art crops too. I guess what I'm looking for is advice about crops others have been actually able to harvest and bring to market, and any experience that favors certain crops over others.

For instance, I have some black walnut trees on my 1/2 acre home lot, and last fall I harvested them, hulled them (by stomping with rubber boots on a tarp), dried them (hanging in mesh bags), and did some experiments with cracking them. My tests showed that my best method for cracking so far (cracking in bulk with a small sledge hammer, then picking out all the biggest pieces during leisure time) only provided about 1 ounce of finished nuts per hour. Though black walnuts have a high market price, at $1 per ounce, my time investment is still very high compared to profit, therefore making it better as a casual recreation activity, or one to provide food for my family, as opposed to something lucrative to sell. Making the jump to making black walnut a worthwhile crop for me would have to include having access to a mechanical cracker/sorter, and/or selling them to someone who had one as a lower price.

 
Kelly King
Posts: 25
Location: North West Vermont - near Saxon Hill
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I've been switching over to working about 1/2 time on my food forest/garden/wild edible activities. For health reasons I need to give up my $ paying childcare jobs that took up 2-3 days a week. So far I've mostly used the "products" of my food forest for barter at the Farmers Market I manage (my other 30% job... very partially paid). I've harvested nettles for fresh and drying, mushrooms (oyster, maitake, dryads saddle/pheasant back, cultivated shiitake), horsetail, other greens.

I've thought about doing some of the "different" syrups since we have

I've gathered grapevines for decorations (from trimmings or downed trees etc) to sell/trade. I am planning on potting up some seedlings/cuttings, I am thinking of bringing some buckthorn wood because I've heard it is great hard wood for handles... I am looking at trees on my 10 acres for burls etc that I can trade with woodworkers I know.

One of my issues is having time/place to sell items. At this time I'm mostly looking at what I have that is of value, getting it in a form I can use for trade, and planning on using it to defray the costs of trees/plants/cuttings I want to get and/or to trade with folks for what they've been able to harvest or have in abundance.

Would love to hear what other folks are doing along those lines.

Part of what I'm having to deal with is the working out the dynamics in my own mind of putting time into my homestead vs working a "paying" job. We have income from my husbands work, which he loves that pays the bills and helps with the putting 4 kids through college stuff (number 3 and 4 are still in that process). So I have the luxury of being able to work on things without having to get a cash return right away. Part of what I have always contributed to our household "income" is being, as my friend Chris says, "A creative non-spender" - growing, cooking, finding free stuff instead of buying. I am picturing what I'm doing as creating a baseline of food/heat/beauty for us in the future. So in the future we can use the $ we have for the things we can't grow here and "little luxuries" (like travel?).

-Kelly
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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when you harvest your black walnuts if you save the hulls you may be able to sell them to artists (like me) to use to make dye and ink or you could if you want to make your own ink and sell that. black walnut ink is incredibly easy to make and lovely to work with and there are not many sources for buying true black walnut ink available. I meant to go to the playground I know with lots of black walnut trees this month to harvest some for ink making but I think I have missed my chance and will have to wait another year. the squirrels got to them before I have had time and I am pretty busy the rest of the month.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1311
Location: Central New Jersey
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Adding to the list of "crafts" type things to consider: whatever fruit and nut trees you are growing, there's the potential for another yield when you prune them. It does not take a large branch to make a spoon, spatula, a spirtle, butter knife... Kitchen implements in wood are useful, attractive and definitely marketable. Also some tools for other crafters, such as "knitty-noddies" for the knitters, can be made pretty easily from small bits of waste wood.

Rustic "stick furniture" has a place in the market as well.

These are things that can be pulled out of your "waste stream" in the forest garden and turned into cash crops.

Hazel(nut) in particular has a long history of being used for crafting as much as for nut production (if not more).
 
Steve Gabriel
Posts: 27
Location: New York
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Everyone has some great ideas in here. I think the "top ten" is going to get personal!

If you want the "big bucks" as a overarching theme, then play the lottery. These are the highest profit potential crops, but none will allow you to quit your day job.

At our farm and in the book, we stress that it isn't money that drives decision. First is what fits into the landscape. Then our goals (which includes some income). Money is simply an indication of a surplus yield that can be sold.

Anyway, my list of the most profitable potentially....

1. shiitake mushrooms
2. any other mushroom you can grow
3. Ginseng
4. elderberry (processed into juice or syrup)
5. maple syrup
6. paw paw (processed into frozen pulp)
7. black locust posts
8. many of the plants we highlight in the book, not for crops, but a NURSERY stock (better profit margin)
9. animals from woodland systems
10. art and craft products - willow charcoal, basket material, weaving material, material for fascines.

cheers,
Steve

www.farmingthewoods.com
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 198
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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Great list and food for thought! Thanks Steve!
 
Kim Hill
Posts: 78
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Rob,

I experimented a few years ago getting out the black walnuts and also found it extremely time consuming. I bet if you had a good source tough, it would be worth the cost to get a cracker and/or oil press. Black walnut oil in my area is over $18 for a 1/2 pint!

Thanks to all for getting into this thread, there are a lot of great ideas flying about
 
Mat Smith
Posts: 125
Location: Gold Coast Hinterland QLD, Australia
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Good list.
I'm doing #1, #2, Could easily do #6, and may have found a source for propagating #7.

I'd really love to find out what trees are suitable in QLD Australia for syrups.
Mmmmmm syrups
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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Our best cash crop is blueberries. Chestnuts are good too if you can find a market and battle the weevils. I'm hoping the pears do well. I love peaches but the trees are short lived and susceptible to pests. Cider apples have potential.

Cherries are a bust, the birds get every one

I have black walnuts coming along nicely. They're too much trouble to harvest, I plan to trade them to friends with pigs for pork.

I'm planting oaks too, and mulberries. Hope they work out well!
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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bee chicken fungi solar trees
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Steve Gabriel wrote:
9. animals from woodland systems


Could you elaborate further? I'm raising lots of animals on my Vermont homestead though some are more appropriate than others and fencing is problematic on my ledgy, off grid site. The best overall fit for me seems to be pigs.
 
Rob Read
Posts: 86
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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That's really useful Steve. "Making the big bucks with permaculture" is a presentation that Paul Wheaton has given several times, so meant more as a reference to that.

That said - I think there are ways to make bundles of cash from land, some of them not directly related to crops, but to working with other people, and reducing income needs. I like your thinking about letting the landscape show you what it wants to be happening (to paraphrase). Part of my current project will be to set up a Holistic Goal (I think now renamed by Alan Savory a Holistic Context) that outlines what we want the land to look like in the future, so we can test decisions against that before they are made, and even after they are made as an assessment.

Thanks for the concrete list of your favourites for potential profit. Those seem like they might be in order of most profitable to least?
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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How about Ramps & Fiddleheads?
 
Steve Gabriel
Posts: 27
Location: New York
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To respond to some of the responses:


1) (CJ) Elaborating on animals....well, we do so in the book. If you go down the silvopasture route, you can consider ruminants in your forestlands (see http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/MapleAgrofor/Silvopasturing3-3-2011.pdf for a good starting guide). Goats and pigs are appropriate for certain types of land and situations, but in the wrong place they can wreak havoc. We've been a big fan of ducks in the woods (see our write up on ducks at http://farmingthewoods.com/media/).

2) (ROB) - yes, they are roughly from most profitable to least....though all on the list have higher likelihood than others.

3) (CJ again) - why not ramps an fiddleheads? Because there is MUCH work to be done on propagation and cultivation before there is an economic bet. Of course, these are wildharvested often and sold for good income. We separate wildcrating from cultivation in the book - and focus on cultivation because much of the wild populations are threatened.

 
Mat Smith
Posts: 125
Location: Gold Coast Hinterland QLD, Australia
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Matu Collins wrote:Our best cash crop is blueberries.

Thanks for the tip, that's really helpful for me as there are several varieties of blueberries that grow in our area
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1969
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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You know, I take apples off my list. I have great affection for my apple trees but for me, in a place with lots of cedar to harbor cedar apple rust, and with many other pests, apple is too problematic to recommend. The blueberries that are near apple trees have more pests.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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But they are sooooo prolific! I collected 700lbs of wild apples from my driveway last year for all the livestock. This year doesn't look as good but if I could get 70lbs of acorns that comes close to the apple yield calorically speaking.
 
Chris Duke
Posts: 30
Location: Torrance, Ca
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ESSENTIAL OILS

http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0453e/x0453e11.htm
 
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