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Creating a Permaculture Food Forest is Not Always the Answer  RSS feed

 
Posts: 94
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Think you may be looking at Hollistic Management of land -
rather than permaculture as such. In order to do this however, you will need a property of a certain scale. To the question of protein in a smaller scale permaculture setup, the following animals are more than appropriate, with each providing multiple outputs. Indeed, a permaculture setup without a species on site to help clear it of weeds and insect pests and provide on-site fertilizer is not really closing its own production loops. It is like the farmer who brings in mulch and manure to their garden, or who plants legumes provided by an outside source for nitrogen fixing or mulch. The idea needs to be “On-Site is Right!” with all of your inputs and outputs being taken care of in a logical manner.

ANIMALS for small scale food forest -
Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Squab Pigeons, Rabbits (10 weeks to the table), Guinea Pigs, Fish, Snales, Compost Worms (only eat these if you are really desperate...), Bees, Goats (mainly for the milk).

If you are a little larger, and want to stick more to permaculture, then any of the larger species in a zoned off type of farm will do well, though perhaps goats, pigs, sheep would be better than cattle. Identify tree species that will not only do well in your climate (preferably even natives) but will give a yield to you or your animals (fruits, nuts, timber) and then protect them from being browsed. Have 3 main areas, one for the animals, one for the production of vegetables, and one that is rotated for fallow and mulch. A fourth area is left to develop the food forest in an intensive way, and the animal species are allowed very limited access to it, perhaps to clean and manure it, or they are kept out altogether and you yourself do that work. In this way you are able to have a pasture like production system, and keep stocking density to the appropriate level, whilst maximising your outputs.

My last advice to any and all who decide to do permaculture is, do not get livestock if you have no one who is able to manage them in the right way. Vet bills are not a viable option. Also, if it is the smaller livestock issue, you need to be able to kill the animal in the right way. It is never an easy thing, so best to buy a few to begin with to turn into dinner before going down that path. As I noted above though, WORMS are not an option but a necessity at its very base. Their ability to process waste and the nutrient value of their outputs are just too good to overlook. And hell, ketchup makes everything taste alright
 
Posts: 16
Location: Bedias, Texas
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Greetings,
I grow dairy cows, Gulf Coast Sheep, Tamworth Pigs and plan on adding chickens and turkeys to my rotational grazing. The food forest in my pastures is becoming my hedgerows that I am growing on my fence lines. They feed my animals during drought and dry seasons, they add variety to the mix, but some of it is also good for me to eat, like pumpkins. By using the fence lines, my animals get better shade, I have less fence fixing problems, and domestic dogs can't get through or over as easily so my sheep and fowl are much safer. A few fruit trees may wind up back there, but mostly nut trees for the upper canopy. I am slowly researching what trees will fill in my hedgerow, but things like sage bushes have traditionally been used as feed for sheep in drought seasons. Just think of the food forest as food for your critters. Some of us are parasympathetic and require animal protein to survive, also, I have no desire to promote any species going extinct. so, growing food animals is part of our farm. For us, permanent paddocks for rotational grazing is much easier to look after. We are already in our mid fifties and found that temporary fences just didn't work, our animals quickly figured out that storms will knock them out. So, escapes after bad storms were common. Hedgerows are a form of food forest that are traditional, and need to come back. Sage bushes will be a good place to start, as they grow naturally in your area. Animals are not all I grow, I am working on a Hugelkulture bed right now, and I raise rabbits as well. Lots of garden beds that are being slowly converted to a polyculture, as well as an orchard being changed over to a guild/food forest for humans, mostly.
 
pollinator
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OK, not quite that big.
I meant about the prairie version of a food forest... as conditions exist today.

M Troyka wrote:

Cj Verde wrote:Food prairie just doesn't have the right ring to it but M - can you see the bigger picture?



I wonder about that. 15,000 years ago the midwest US held the world's largest lake, and was probably significantly more humid. During its time as a grassland, the moisture retention was significantly improved by the action of Bison digging out mud holes to wallow in. The age just prior to the present one saw continuous El Niño conditions. Not only has the 'natural state' of the area changed considerably (and regularly catastrophically) even in recent history, but human intervention has changed things even further. Just when you think you know what the 'big picture' is, it changes just to spite you.

Supposedly during the warmer periods of earth rainfall is also more abundant. Will global warming increase rainfall in the midwest or will it become even more arid instead? Who knows, really.

 
Posts: 120
Location: Essex, England, 51 deg
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I think you can have a food forest, but that is not just the goal.

We try to add layers, and maybe a tree is not one of those layers.

With irrigation maybe you can emulate more intensive establishment systems like muslim cultures achieve ie olive pomegranete etc. Agroforestry can lead to a commercial scale system adapting current systems, alley crop etc.



 
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Chris Stelzer wrote: I will create a food forest when I own some land.

This I think should be the real focus of the discussion, not esoteric ideas about about the evolution of ecosystems over the last 15000 years or or so. It seems to me that the people here that are pigeon holing concepts like what is a food forest or what is a prairie ecosytems haven't spent much time in either real forests or real prairies. Those that do, and those that own real land in these areas (like myself) understand that there are grasslands within forests, and forests with prairies. The area where my land is located borders on both, known as what is biologically called "Oak Woodland". It's a mix of grassland on drier south slopes, gradating to pine forest on wetter northern slopes and ravine bottoms. Anyone that understands what a riparian habitat is wouldn't be argueing about the merits of forest vs prairie.

I think these kinds of discussions would be a lot more productive if they were posited on "what I've determined" rather than "what I think". Live trees in the ground give you a very different perspective than trees positioned on your computer screen.
 
Posts: 46
Location: mid. TN
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Speaking of stuff that will drive you up the wall. As a recent college grad who did a lot of Eco/bio study. Naming habitats is boring enough to make me cry! To walk into a forest, describe it as an upland woodland mixed mesophytic oak/hickory/pine habitat, and then collect data to back up that description. Well, then you've passed advanced ecology and biodiversity.

I agree, less talk - more do.
 
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Ugh, at the risk of making everyone mad again and reviving this thread, and beating the dead horse, etc. etc....

I grew up in the Queen City of the Plains, Denver. I know, I'm a city slicker, but I understand the arid climate you're working with. I think it would be productive for you to plant savanna-style. This is because the trees - once established - will provide a little dappled shade for the grasses underneath. The Colorado sun (my parents and sister are always talking about how wonderful it is to get 300 days of sun), is hot as hades, and the arid climate wicks moisture from plants quickly. This means that grass will put more of their productivity into making woody-silica-dense growth than green-delicious-chlorophyll growth. You would do well to examine drought-tolerant tree species that animals like to munch on. Some oaks, Mesquite, maybe some locust species. The pods from the these trees are great for cattle, deer, elk, or hogs. Speaking of hogs; oaks, chestnuts, and turkish hazelnut can feed your hogs, if you find a way (such as swales) to get water to the hazels during drought. Nut-fed hogs would command a huge price in Denver, I know a few restaurant managers there that would love the opportunity to talk to you about your local nut-fed organic bacon. The other benefit is to sell your nuts, or whatever herbs decide to grow underneath. Adding trees allows the winter snow to soak in a little more instead of evaporating away in the sun.

The conventional wisdom is that elimination of trees on pastureland will increase the productivity of the pastureland, but what kind of productivity? Is it more productive if the grass is not as high of quality for the cattle? Is it productive to have your cows wasting away during the summer heat laying down in sun instead of foraging in cool dappled shade? I'm not convinced of the conventional wisdom; not because it is 'conventional' and i'm so 'progressive', but because i think some other ways could be more profitable *gasp*.

http://www.perennialsolutions.org/legume-trees-with-pods-edible-to-livestock
 
Posts: 33
Location: Sacramento
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I am not a purist but to me, one thing that has struck me in the books I have read on permaculture and this discussion is how many need to turn to non native plants (more than a few of which are highly invasive) to make their "natural" system work...it seems so unnatural!

What works on a bulletin board does not always work when you plant it, nor does it grow as predicted, and you cannot always hit delete to control the consequences. The other major issue I see is what can you convince people to try who think we are crazy but might serve to convince them, is to me FAR more important and valid than some pure theoretical stance that is based on 15,000 years of what ifs.

Of course i can't cite it but i remember reading some articles on cattleman switching to using paddocks and or natural grasses and getting solid productivity and profitable results...is it pure? No, but THAT is more likely to provide the social chance we all want than 100 keyboard farmers arguing over what is the best ecosystem for the head of a pin...

I say this as someone who grew up with chickens, goats, and pigs with quasi-hippy parents and who has now mortgaged everything to buy a small 1/2 plot in the middle of an urban setting to create an urban farm and teaching center for all of "this" but what i am creating is quite unnatural because I have italian olives, middle eastern Figs, east coast pecans, and god knows what the origins of the rest of this managery are. I am fighing invasive Chinese tree of heaven as they are very invasive, a nightmare to kill once established and yet are listed in many books as trees to plant...

So, lets all set aside our differences as compared to that with the rest of society we ALL agree on what is important if you look at it that way.
 
pollinator
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Phewwww! That's a lot of reading.
I don't want to argue semantics or pedantics, but tell you about my friend Jay Wilde. Jay runs cows on 2,000 acres of forest and grassland that he inherited from his father, who did the same. He had never heard the word permaculture when I asked him, but he manages the land in a way that would definitely qualify. The neighbors call him Moses, for his control of the waters below the soil. He has shown me at least 30 ponds that he built himself, some of these are on ridges! They have water in them year round and we only receive 16" of rain per year.
The thing that I love about Jay, is that he never stops studying. He has a plant collection of 300 + plants, all from his place, that he takes the ones he doesn't know to university and gets them identified. People like this are a dying breed; capable, knowledgeable, helpful and humble. I try to be like Jay every day.
 
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That's true, not every ecosystem is a forest. However every ecosystem that has supported human life must have some capacity to produce carbs, fats and protein. Trees can provide protein, such as chestnuts; fats and oils such as hazelnuts. These can be staple crops for much of the world. Mushrooms, beans, cattails and potatoes are more examples. If I'm not being totally redundant right now, check out Mark Shepard at New Forest Farm. Talk about Permaculture! This guy is doing it.
 
pollinator
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Tree crops, the book which helped to start the whole permaculture movement, pointed out that trees in a pasture (even in the midwest) produce a much higher yield then grass alone, due to the beneficial effects of shade on the grass. I am also in Colorado, and grass certainly does grow better in the shade. Also, the honey locust is drought tolerant and productive here, and does well with grass.
 
Posts: 1
Location: Farmland, Indiana, USA
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I am not even close to as knowledgeable as you all seem to be, but in response to the idea of raising animals for more than just your family, chickens and turkeys (specifically midget whites, but wikd turkeys work also) would seem like a great fit for a food forest. They can be great foragers and like to roost in trees. The greatest challenge seems to be keeping out predators. Training them to return to the coop each night and locking them in solves that for the most part. I love my cow and goats (goats are also browsers very happy in wooded areas, but do more damage than the birds, so might not be a good choice in a small area) but chicken and turkey are awesome as well.
 
pollinator
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Well, we can still have a food forest
... and not ALL the place as a forest!

I do not see why to be so mad about foreign species, man and some animals have been transporting for centuries!
I am very glad here to have plants that went wild and did not exist before their introduction: figs, almonds, chestnuts, prickly pears...

Some can invade and there is no problem as long as they are edible!
Ornamentals can be more a problem when they are not useful or toxic...
But this is going out topic, sorry.
 
Posts: 40
Location: Colorado @ 7000 feet. zone negative 87b
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Chris Stelzer wrote:This is a post I will be publishing on my blog in a few days. Now keep in mind that a lot of my audience doesn't know what permaculture is, let alone a food forest. I'm trying to introduce them to these concepts. Here we go:

Many folks in the permaculture world promote food forests. What is a food forest? A food forest is a multi-layered, purposefully designed forest comprised of food producing species. Think of it like a very low maintenance “garden” that has a lot of trees, shrubs and ground species that produce something useful like fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this idea. I will create a food forest when I own some land. However, many people are trying to create food forests everywhere and see this technique as the “end all be all” solutions to our food problems. I’m of a different opinion.

I’m being the devil’s advocate for a reason. I want to present some new ideas and start some conversation.

How will a food forest produce protein and fat for me? These are two basic nutrients that every human needs in their diet. When I say protein, I’m talking about animal protein. This is not a place for a debate on not eating meat vs eating meat, eat whatever you want. However, most people in the United States eat meat. One way to raise animal protein in a food forest would be to graze animals within that system. Pigs seem like a natural fit. But, you’d need a big food forest to produce enough pork to feed even just your family. What about making a profit by selling to other families or becoming a pork producer? Can a food forest give you that? I don’t know, maybe. Sepp Holzer in Austria has great success with it, but lives in a different environment than I do.

I live on the plains of Colorado. Colorado is an semi-arid/high desert climate. Creating a large scale food forest would be challenging but possible. However, that is land that could be used to graze livestock. The great plains have historically been, well, plains or grasslands. Is putting a massive amount of energy into converting this area into a food forest worthwhile? On a small scale, I think so. On a commercial scale, I don’t think so. Would changing these grasslands into something “unnatural” help or hinder?

Properly managed grasslands can produce a massive amount of high quality and environmentally friendly animal proteins and fats. The fertile soils of the great plains were created by large herds of herbivores who numbered in the millions and moved quickly and frequently to new areas of fresh grass. Ranchers are using this technique on millions of acres around the globe.

I’m of the opinion that we need to manage and make decisions based upon the environment we are in. If I were to plant a coconut tree in my backyard, people would call me crazy. Rightfully so. Let’s work within the climate in which we live. If that climate historically lends itself to grazing livestock, why change that? Nature has already decided for us what the best use of that land is. Lets capitalize on it.

What do you think?




I think you need to embrace the idea of a fish pond in your food forest and the fact that fallen nuts and fruit can fatten pigs, while chickens graze on bugs under the fallen leaves. Permaculture is more than just food forests, it is a design philosophy. I just posted 5 minutes ago in another thread that I think people tend to miss what permaculture really is. They miss the scope of it. They miss the universality and utility of it. They fixate on certain facets and don't see the food forest for the trees. Ha. I wrote that myself!

 
Posts: 71
Location: the state of jefferson - zone 7
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Well written post, I like anything that brings attention to permaculture. I certainly think grazing animals for dairy and meat is a tremendously important foundational leg of permaculture, building on Allen Savory and Joel Salatin and such. I think a wonderful combination of grazing with the food forest is the use of close-planted diverse hedgerows as fences between paddocks, in the big open areas, they could be three trees wide with a row in the center of overstory and going down in stature on each side, and far enough apart to make big paddocks and allow plenty of light, and provide shade and some fodder for some animals.
 
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Hi,

here is central Spain we have a traditional human ecosystem called "dehesa" which is basically a human-controlled prairie for herbivores sprinkled with trees for wood, coppicing (animal food and basket making) and acorns (animal and human food). With some more water you could easily add other nut trees and fruit trees to this idea. Pigs and cattle are raised semi-wild in these areas. You could also have chickens and ducks if you have open water bodies.

Here's what it looks like: https://www.google.es/search?q=dehesa&safe=active&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=663&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=xOS7VOXzHcuvU8OMgLgK&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg

I thought maybe this would be a good model for what you are thinking of.

Cheers,
Lucía
 
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I completely disagree about needing a large food forest to be able to grow enough pork to feed just 1 family. You can estimate 1 pig a year and 1 cow every 2 years will feed a family. If you have a productive food forest you shouldn't have any problem feeding a pig a year.
 
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Create a Food forest requires no effort. No oil , no gasoline. Only seeding and mulching . In your case mulching, then wait 6 months and seed and slightly mulch again on top.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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Well, I don't know about no effort. There is generally a trade-off between labour and inputs up front, and future productivity. I am working on an edible forest garden right now myself, and am putting a lot of work into walls and mounds to create microclimates, and swales to utilize water. Of course, I could just mulch and scatter seeds, but relatively few plants like Denver's unamended climate, soil, and rainfall, and even fewer useful ones. Also, the neighbours probably would not like the anything goes, mulch and seed approach. We would get a tangle of bindweed very quickly.

But on a broad acre scale, just scattering seed might be a good idea. Mulching anything over an acre or so gets ridiculous pretty quickly, though. And on an un-irrigated site here, mulch can soak up all of our brief rains, leaving the soil dry.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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Also, while oil is still available, we should use it to provide benefits for the next thousand years; digging thousand foot swales, building retaining walls and terraces out of boulders, installing ponds and dams for irrigation. Much better then just burning it to move around, and your neighbour will use it that way even if you don't.
 
stefano massa
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oh well, I don't know what you meant with your neighbors but i create a food forest because i can be independent from food, but my neighbor can think what he wants. yes you may help a bit in the beginning with water but once it grows it owns her own stability, her own shadow, and to do that they take all the energy from the sun,a free resource. You don't need fertilizer, pesticides, or any product that involves oil, a not renewable resource that is coming to an end, while who does food foresting offers a smart alternative to oil , which we all need now to bring the food in the supermarkets, and for tractors and automatic harvester machines. With a food forest system we can harvest close to our apartments and houses etc. and let trees absorb CO2,...now that i think about it i think it's the solution to everything..

 
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You are right. If the goal is a standard American diet with lots of protein (which is very over-rated; viruses are proteins) and lots of dairy and complex carbohydrates is your thing, than a food forest isn't going to provide the junk food you are used to eating. If a healing diet is the goal then whatever fruit and tender leafy greens as well as vegetables containing seeds you can grow and get your garden to produce( including medicinal herbs),will help you achieve optimal health -- which can't be a bad thing.

I'd be happy with just fruit trees. I don't need eggs and I don't think you need the chickens for fertilizer etc. There is plenty of plant matter that can build up the soil.
 
gardener
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Protein isn't junk food.

"which is very over-rated; viruses are proteins"

One could also say: "carbs, which are very over-rated; high-fructose corn syrup is a carbohydrate."

We need lots of leafy green vegetables and fruit for nutrition; however, for maintaining testosterone levels and muscle mass, that diet won't cut it.

Your food forest needs steak.
 
Cj Sloane
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David Goodman wrote:

We need lots of leafy green vegetables and fruit for nutrition; however, for maintaining testosterone levels and muscle mass, that diet won't cut it.

Your food forest needs steak.



I'm not entirely sure we need fruit, at least not out of season.

What your food forest needs are animals to turn into steak! And roasts, and other savory morsels. & some mushrooms too.
 
David Good
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@Cj

Yes!

Berries are probably tops in the realm of fruit. I'm mostly with you. Eating in season most likely works with how we were designed to live inside nature. I shudder when I see strawberries at the grocery in December. That's just unnatural.
 
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I really think the original poster on this is focused on how he's going to graze his cattle. That's the kind of "protein production" he's really after. And yes, bovines are largely grassland animals, not forest animals, though I'd bet there are varieties that are more adapted to forests.
Pigs are mentioned in this discussion, of course, as well as chickens (both animals which are originally forest creatures). I'm surprised no one mentioned goats, however. Goats will gladly browse the ground-cover and shrub layers, as well as graze on wind-fallen nuts. Goats are far more efficient at protein conversion than are cattle, and are a "red meat".
Also, a "food forest" can occupy a space of a few hundred square feet as a deeply complex plant guild. You can intersperse these mini food forests with meadows full of grasses and ground-cover (such as dandelion, plantain, milkweed, etc...) which can be grazed.
 
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Chris would you consider Sepps place a food forest? He runs pigs and cows through his land. I think you have two separate topics and you're merging them together. Can you create a food forest in an area where its naturally lends itself to forest and raise meat? Yes. Can you or should you create a food forest in an area that doesn't? debatable. These two questions are very different. And I wouldn't imply that raising meat is impossible especially to an audience that hasn't heard of permaculture before. They may get the wrong impression.
 
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Hello! I was compelled to join permies.com because of this thread. There are a vast amount of wild foods in the semi-arid prairies and foothills of Colorado. Since the conversation seems to be orbiting the semi-arid grassland prairie, I'll try and list a few (have patience, I'm on a mobile phone so this will be off the top of my head while I'm in a waiting room). I might not remember all of the binomials. I'll try and stick to native plants with substantial yields.
Yampa (Perideridia)
Bush Morning Glory (Ipomoea leptophylla)
^cool thing is this is a relative of sweet potato
Gambel's Oak (acorns)
Mariposa Lily (delicious)
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana I believe.
Wild plum (Prunus americana... Delicious)
Piñon Pine (Huge pine nuts)
Feral Apple
Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia sp)
Ground plum
Ground Cherry (delicious)
There are tons of invasives too, and I've left out a great deal of natives because my wife's appointment is about over. I live in Southern Colorado. I'll love this thread. There are dozens more.


 
pollinator
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If you are talking about grazing bison and elk, then yes it could be sustainably productive. If you are talking about raising cattle or sheep, then look at 150 years of counterexamples across the west that destroyed some of the most fertile grasslands on earth.
 
gardener
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This man explains how he successfully raises cattle and a variety of other large and small livestock, while improving soil health and having a healthy wildlife population.  It was mismanagement practices on the part of the ranchers, not the fact that cattle were the animals they were controlling.

There's another ranch near the Big Bend of Texas that in part uses the grazing habits of their cattle to improve the habitat for the elk. If someone here knows what I'm talking about, I know they briefly explain how that works on their own web page.

edit: Actually, I found it myself. It's the Circle Ranch. Right on their front page is the article explaining "how cows and elk improve wildlife habitat". http://circleranchtx.com/cows-and-elk/
 
pollinator
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I'd like to see more examples of holistic management which are actually holistic - that is, which include the entire ecosystem and not just the parts directly of benefit to humans.  Specifically I mean including non-human top predators such as bear, mountain lion, jaguar, wolf, etc.   Circle Ranch seems to be promoting this idea that the predators need to be restored in order for the ecosystem to function.  I'm happy to see that example.  http://circleranchtx.com/too-many-deer-on-the-road-let-cougars-return-study-says/

Until I see more examples like that, and see whole ecosystem restoration promoted as the goal of the method,  I remain skeptical of holistic management/managed intensive grazing.  Presently I see it as a way to make raising cattle less bad, but I do not see it yet as good, because it seems rare that top predators are even mentioned in discussions of the method.  
 
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