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Why aren't farms like Mark Shepard's exploding in the US?

 
Posts: 1926
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Travis-  glad you didn't think I was being derogatory. I brought up the price of them a few times. It blows my mind how much they cost. You could buy 300 acres here for less than you would have to pay for the tractor to plow them.

I respect you too! Mutual admiration. You're in the thick of it though having actually farmed for money. I haven't made any money. At this point you could say I'm a hobbyist. Tried darn near everything and failed at it all too!

I think area is so important when considering things as well. My husband and I have discussed the Joel Stalatin method several times for making money. I don't think we'd make nearly enough to cover costs. Joel has a ready market of people with money. We just don't. Sure, some people have paid quite a bit for one of our turkeys but even still we just broke even on them when you consider all the labor. We couldn't charge enough or find enough customers willing to pay either.

Like you mentioned with the trees, if I bought 100k trees there is no way I could sell off half of them. There are only a few more than 50k people in our capitol city after all. Never mind that trees really don't grow that well here anyway.

Haying seems to make pretty good money. We ship a ton of hay to Texas and other states suffering drought and hard weather. I guess the only good thing you could say about my area is that while the weather sucks it consistently sucks. We don't have any real severe weather events.


As for the neighbor farmer I don't know. I did consider that he was plowing it under for the subsidy but then why change the direction his rows have been? They've been like that the 20+ years my husband's family have lived out here so it's very strange. It's also just one of their fields. We are aware they own a few others around here. Hemp is the only reasonable explanation I could come up with. As it just became legal to grow here people are hopping about trying to get permits and seeds. The belief being that it'll sell for $$$$$. I'm not going to lie, I'd be deeply amused if it didn't. Leave it to Wyoming.
 
master pollinator
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I agree, "Fail Gingerly", meaning if your 7-15% fails, you are not completely out.

It is a really great idea...not good, but great! I got to put some thought into where I can put this idea into practice. Does it have to be 7% of the land base though? (LOL)
 
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Location: Cedar City, UTAH
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elle sagenev wrote:
Like you mentioned with the trees, if I bought 100k trees there is no way I could sell off half of them. There are only a few more than 50k people in our capitol city after all. Never mind that trees really don't grow that well here anyway.
.



How about an ongoing secondary concern? You don't have to do it all in one year. buy 2000 trees, sell a thousand, do it again the next year.  It's got to make you more money than 100 dollars an acre. I remember Mark talking about how if there was a year he couldn't afford to pay people to harvest some perennial crop, at the very least he was creating a great food source for his pigs. On top of that, you are improving the value of your land. If all you do is take 20 acres every few years of your 300 acre farm, plant it out and run animals through it, at the end you have created a little piece of edible paradise that you could easily sell, or harvest over time in a multitude of ways and make way more than $100 an acre.
Transform a piece of your farm at a time. You don't have to eat your elephant in all one bite.  Too many people think these are ideas are all or nothing. It does not have to be that way! I just think it's reasonable to take a small part of your farm and transform it over time, especially if you don't feel comfortable with doing new things. This minimizes the risk. Besides, how many trees and other edible perennial bearing plants can you plant a year anyway?  I do know that some states are funding programs for alleycropping and border areas to absorb runoff and provide habitat for pollinators. It would be nice if that could expend to encoruage a alleycrop border area in all farmed lots over a certain size.  In the end, acres and acres of monocrop is a problem, an ecological vacuum that creates a lot of problems, not the least of which is agricultural runoff that ends up poisoning the ocean, rivers, lakes and streams.

I know, it requires some work and continual self-education. Many people are not willing to do that.


 
pollinator
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I live in Eastern Wa, where all the apple orchards are. I wonder all the time why they pack the trees so close together rather than doing a Mark Shepard style. All I can figure out is it is just too difficult for old farmers to learn new tricks. For example, one of my friends started living with one of the original orchard families in the area. My friend is fairly into organics and natural gardening. But trying to get the gentleman who he was living with to understand these concepts was just impossible for him. The guy could not wrap his head around not using heavy chemical stuff, because that was what he had used for all his life.

That said, I have introduced Mark Shepard's videos to multiple younger folks starting out, and they have been very receptive. For example one friend was just floored when I started describing the idea to him. He got very excited and said that was exactly what he wanted to do, that he felt there was a better way but just hadn't known where to look for it.

So the way I figure, what we need to do is work as hard as possible at introducing these ideas as well as other permaculture ideas to the younger folks just starting out. The ones who have not gotten set in their ways yet. They tend to be able to look at the ideas with less bias and while they might not adopt all of the ideas, they are willing to incorporate what they do understand as "better ways".
 
gardener
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Devin Lavign wrote:I live in Eastern Wa, where all the apple orchards are. I wonder all the time why they pack the trees so close together rather than doing a Mark Shepard style. All I can figure out is it is just too difficult for old farmers to learn new tricks. For example, one of my friends started living with one of the original orchard families in the area. My friend is fairly into organics and natural gardening. But trying to get the gentleman who he was living with to understand these concepts was just impossible for him. The guy could not wrap his head around not using heavy chemical stuff, because that was what he had used for all his life.

That said, I have introduced Mark Shepard's videos to multiple younger folks starting out, and they have been very receptive. For example one friend was just floored when I started describing the idea to him. He got very excited and said that was exactly what he wanted to do, that he felt there was a better way but just hadn't known where to look for it.

So the way I figure, what we need to do is work as hard as possible at introducing these ideas as well as other permaculture ideas to the younger folks just starting out. The ones who have not gotten set in their ways yet. They tend to be able to look at the ideas with less bias and while they might not adopt all of the ideas, they are willing to incorporate what they do understand as "better ways".




They use dwarfing rootstocks commercially. It's more yield (in a monocrop system) per acre that way.

Personally, I really, really would not invest money and resources in an STUN system in this part of the country, east or west of the cascades. Most of the trees really will fail. There just isn't enough (or any, really) summer rain. My grandmother grew food on the east side for a long time.

I knew of a man who planted a bunch of trees with STUN. One or two made it. He reckoned they were genetically stronger. These were grafted trees, all on the same rootstock. In that situation they were essentially identical from a genetics perspective, at least from the graft down. Really what happened is that those trees were lucky somehow. Maybe that area was  little wetter than others, or maybe the roots better developed, etc


I've got a friend using STUN in northern Wisconsin. It will likely work for him, but it rains regularly there in the summer.
 
Devin Lavign
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James Landreth wrote:Personally, I really, really would not invest money and resources in an STUN system in this part of the country, east or west of the cascades. Most of the trees really will fail. There just isn't enough (or any, really) summer rain. My grandmother grew food on the east side for a long time.

I knew of a man who planted a bunch of trees with STUN. One or two made it. He reckoned they were genetically stronger. These were grafted trees, all on the same rootstock. In that situation they were essentially identical from a genetics perspective, at least from the graft down. Really what happened is that those trees were lucky somehow. Maybe that area was  little wetter than others, or maybe the roots better developed, etc


I've got a friend using STUN in northern Wisconsin. It will likely work for him, but it rains regularly there in the summer.



STUN is not the only thing Mark advocates though. Eastern Wa has a lot of water, it just doesn't fall from the sky as often. There is a lot of irrigation water available for folks, which is how the orchards work over here. What the folks I introduced to Mark Shepard's work were most interested in was alley cropping as well as the ability to raise livestock and graze them in the orchards, and other such ideas. They did not want to stop using irrigation water, as you mentioned it tends not to rain in the summer here.

That said, while indeed the typical apples/cherries/pears/etc grown over here tend to be delicate and need lots of human help you might be surprised that on my mountain we have two apples trees growing wild. The produce nice apples with no one maintaining them or watering them. This is in rocky soil that has a very steep drop right after the trees. So little to no ground water is being held there to last over the summer. But yet the trees thrive. I mention this since it is not impossible to develop an orchard in good fertile soil rather than rocky mountain soil that could handle a STUN method. It would take some work finding the right genetic stock, but it is not out of the realm of possible. As you said, you know someone who found some trees able to do it.
 
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I think a couple reasons that Mark's system isn't exploding are:
  • The average farmer wouldn't be able to easily find a market for hazelnuts, chestnuts and specialty berries
  • Farmers are quick to pick up on new technology that is sold to them and promoted extensively.  Mark's methods aren't promoted in the same way

  • As for the idea that permaculture is "complicated", my uncle was a farmer.  He knew exactly how much nitrogen per acre would be generated by turning under a particular cover crop.  Or how to apply X chemical at the optimal moment.  The level of complexity in modern farming is easily as complicated as Mark's, Gabe's or Joel's systems, in my opinion...  Farmers could easily learn and implement this stuff, I just don't think complexity is the reason.
     
    gardener
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    I only know one farmer,really.
    Richard Steward of Carriage House Farm.
    He has a family farm,  but he has to hustle to make it pay.
    He built a horse boarding stable.
    People pay him for the space and the hay,  but they provide the labor, mostly by hiring his tenant,  who rents out the old farm house.
    From there he got into grinding his own grain, thus selling corn and wheat for many times the commodity price.
    Sells "waste"from the milling operation as chicken scratch.
    Bee keeping.
    Paw paws.
    Milling lumber from his own land.
    Greens from his high tunnel(paid for in part by some gubmint program)
    Hosting farm to table events with chefs.
    Growing organic grain on his higher properties,  conventional grain on his floodplain.
    Selling directly to chefs as much as possible.
    Market garden.
    The list goes on,  and it's mostly additions, not substitutions.
    He is now running a commercial craft vinegar operation on his land,  with a full commercial kitchen.
    The vinegar is brewed from spent grain ,provided by his partners at Mad Tree Brewery.
    Each batch is different, all very richly flavored.

    I have no idea if this kind of variety is the norm for family farmers ,  but diversity seems to be his way of squeezing the most income and joy, out of the land, while leaving it better than it was when it was entrusted to him.
     
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    https://permies.com/t/119378/WORK-TRADE-OPPORTUNITY-BEAUTIFUL-SANTA
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