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a few questions for Grant  RSS feed

 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
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Thanks again for doing this. Ticket or no ticket, its a great opportunity to work on finding answers to some things. But I am hoping to the be Charlie in the Chocolate Factory of Permies.com.

We are in the process of looking for land here (Louisville, KY vicinity) and I'm curious what type of land base and minimum acreage you think is adequate to support a family from the land with similar systems to what you have. In order in part get around the inevitable "it depends" answer: We would have similar rainfall here, and be slightly warmer than you. We've done pastured pigs and market garden on rented ground, and would like to get into more grazing and tree/woody crops. I'd be interested in weaning myself off of the veg production eventually. I wouldn't presume you know enough about me to feel comfortable saying more than what you would do, but am still curious what you might think.

In that vein, the land around here is pretty varied. We've got lots of relatively flat corn and soybean fields and cow pastures and the woody hillsides that separate them. If you were looking for a property, what kind of balance of those things would you hope for? Seems to me that rescuing some too-rolling-for-row-crops soybean field from further erosion is a good work, but do you think that taking on that distressed situation too much trauma to absorb? The pastures in this non-brittle environment are probably a bit more forgiving.

I'm intrigued by the possibilities with renting land in addition to a home place planted/managed for more long term goals (that seems to work for some of the pasture-based superstars in this field). But also like the idea of my animals living in a system I planted, while not loosing access to the trees I plant either. Any thoughts on that tension?

I'm curious what one does for human food safety when grazing animals along planted polyculture strips containing fruit trees, elderberries, blackberries, etc. Though I've eaten plenty of blackberries right alongside my pigs after scratching them, and without washing my own hands, I know that getting animal poop on someone's fresh fruit is a good way to loose your credibility, and maybe more. Just curious if you have a time or space barrier that you recommend for keeping this safe enough for customers' confidence, and (God forbid) any regulators who might be curious about what you've got going on. The desire to get their fertility and grazing relatively close seems at odds with anything like the USDA organic 90/120 rule.

I'm hoping there isn't a limit on questions. I'm sure I can think of more that I would love to have your input on.

best,
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Luke Groce wrote:
I'm curious what one does for human food safety when grazing animals along planted polyculture strips containing fruit trees, elderberries, blackberries, etc. Though I've eaten plenty of blackberries right alongside my pigs after scratching them, and without washing my own hands, I know that getting animal poop on someone's fresh fruit is a good way to loose your credibility, and maybe more. Just curious if you have a time or space barrier that you recommend for keeping this safe enough for customers' confidence, and (God forbid) any regulators who might be curious about what you've got going on. The desire to get their fertility and grazing relatively close seems at odds with anything like the USDA organic 90/120 rule.

best,


Electronet fencing and polywire is usually enough to isolate animals from fruit crops to respect a 90/120 rule.



We've been able to place electronet over tree mulch. The added benefit is that the fence can't ground out on weeds or other vegetation, and you don't have to spend time mowing a swath for portable fencing.



Video of trees, mulch, and forage alleys here:

https://www.facebook.com/versaland/videos/vb.455326337915808/706481602800279/?type=2&theater

 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
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Thanks for that. I know common sense goes a long way when bringing animals near plants for human consumption. But not enough people I talk to are doing it -so I am always interested in seeing what makes sense to others.

One question you didn't address above: Any thoughts on whether you would prefer to start a system like yours in a corn/soy mono-crop field, or a typical midwest set stock grazing cow pasture? (similar climate). I'm looking into both right now.

I was re-listening to some podcasts with you the other day, and had a couple sets of questions:

1. Did I correctly hear that you're using 30 foot spacing all over your farm between the tree crop strips? Not sure what climax tree species you're working with, but are you looking to have a closed canopy forest there in 50 years, as opposed to maintaining the system as a silvopasture? When Darren Doherty was on here, I asked him about Mark Sheppard's spacing for those who want to graze and crop in between long term, and he said he liked the idea of 100 ft between rows. Just curious if you can shed some light on your choice of spacing here, and what your end goals are (which, I understand, may not be achieved in your lifetime).

2. You talked about grazing animals from low in the system to higher on the hills in a given season (I believe you said this was to prevent runoff from their waste from following them down the hill). Maybe this is one of those things that will have to be worked out over time with your grazing plan revisions, but I have a few questions: when exactly are you thinking of putting animals in those lowlands? Is the keyline system so effective that they won't be soggier than the ridges in April/May? Do you worry about your hilltops being dried out first, and therefore not recovering as easily from that later graze? Obviously you can't take every possible thing into consideration in a design, and you've walked around on a key lined property in each of those months. I haven't. I'm just trying to figure out how it looks on the ground, and how to order the importance of various different factors in designing my systems.
 
Luke Groce
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Location: Louisville, KY
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Grant,

did you have any thoughts on these follow up questions from earlier in the week? I'm sure you're plenty busy. Just wanted to give you a shot at addressing these, in case they fell too far down the list.

Luke Groce wrote:Thanks for that. I know common sense goes a long way when bringing animals near plants for human consumption. But not enough people I talk to are doing it -so I am always interested in seeing what makes sense to others.

One question you didn't address above: Any thoughts on whether you would prefer to start a system like yours in a corn/soy mono-crop field, or a typical midwest set stock grazing cow pasture? (similar climate). I'm looking into both right now.

I was re-listening to some podcasts with you the other day, and had a couple sets of questions:

1. Did I correctly hear that you're using 30 foot spacing all over your farm between the tree crop strips? Not sure what climax tree species you're working with, but are you looking to have a closed canopy forest there in 50 years, as opposed to maintaining the system as a silvopasture? When Darren Doherty was on here, I asked him about Mark Sheppard's spacing for those who want to graze and crop in between long term, and he said he liked the idea of 100 ft between rows. Just curious if you can shed some light on your choice of spacing here, and what your end goals are (which, I understand, may not be achieved in your lifetime).

2. You talked about grazing animals from low in the system to higher on the hills in a given season (I believe you said this was to prevent runoff from their waste from following them down the hill). Maybe this is one of those things that will have to be worked out over time with your grazing plan revisions, but I have a few questions: when exactly are you thinking of putting animals in those lowlands? Is the keyline system so effective that they won't be soggier than the ridges in April/May? Do you worry about your hilltops being dried out first, and therefore not recovering as easily from that later graze? Obviously you can't take every possible thing into consideration in a design, and you've walked around on a key lined property in each of those months. I haven't. I'm just trying to figure out how it looks on the ground, and how to order the importance of various different factors in designing my systems.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Luke Groce wrote:Any thoughts on whether you would prefer to start a system like yours in a corn/soy mono-crop field, or a typical midwest set stock grazing cow pasture? (similar climate). I'm looking into both right now.



I'd lean towards a chemical-free cow pasture if you could - all other things being independent (topography, infrastructure, location, etc) The only advantage of going into a conventional field is that grass pressure may be low for a new tree planting - all other factors are likely a detriment: dead soil biology, compaction, higher appraised value, no tree cover or "edge" habitat, likely no fences, etc


Luke Groce wrote:

1. Did I correctly hear that you're using 30 foot spacing all over your farm between the tree crop strips? Not sure what climax tree species you're working with, but are you looking to have a closed canopy forest there in 50 years, as opposed to maintaining the system as a silvopasture? When Darren Doherty was on here, I asked him about Mark Shepard's spacing for those who want to graze and crop in between long term, and he said he liked the idea of 100 ft between rows. Just curious if you can shed some light on your choice of spacing here, and what your end goals are (which, I understand, may not be achieved in your lifetime).


The main silvopasture planting is all 30 ft spacing, yes. At a 15-yr horizon this is perfect and productive, at 60 years this may be at 60 ft or 90 ft spacing - all it takes is a chainsaw or a tree transplanter. I'm not managing for a static "climax" like an extension agent would, I'm managing for consistent disruption over millennia. The primary purpose of this planting is fruit yield, livestock are secondary. If I had a big hat and a large cattle herd I'd probably plant a monoculture of white oaks at 120ft spacing. But - I have neither. The "30 ft crazy diverse repeating polyculture" can be molded into 1,001 different things, we'll see where the years ahead take it. I'd like to maintain a silvopasture.

Luke Groce wrote:

2. You talked about grazing animals from low in the system to higher on the hills in a given season (I believe you said this was to prevent runoff from their waste from following them down the hill). Maybe this is one of those things that will have to be worked out over time with your grazing plan revisions, but I have a few questions: when exactly are you thinking of putting animals in those lowlands? Is the keyline system so effective that they won't be soggier than the ridges in April/May? Do you worry about your hilltops being dried out first, and therefore not recovering as easily from that later graze? Obviously you can't take every possible thing into consideration in a design, and you've walked around on a key lined property in each of those months. I haven't. I'm just trying to figure out how it looks on the ground, and how to order the importance of various different factors in designing my systems.


This one is tougher to answer. Bottomlands will always be wetter than uplands - even with all the Keylining in the world: water eventually always flows downhill. The "grazing rotation moving up" concept is more about meeting obscure FSMA regulations (90 days of livestock removal, etc) for harvesting fruit crops without manure contamination (harvesters touch ground, ladders, bins, etc). so...early Gravensteins low on slope - late season Golden Russets higher on the slope, the last grazing of the season following right behind. Animals as the cleanup crew!

 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
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Thanks for those answers.

I suppose the cow pastures around here are RELATIVELY chemical free, as compared with the annual grains. That is a big plus. Though I do wonder how long all that dewormer takes to leave the soil.

I like the humility and flexibility of keeping your options open for dramatic design shifts in down the road. I don't have it all figured out now, but in year 15, I'll have a better idea of what I want things to look like in year 30.

I am enjoying keeping up with what the various folks out there are doing with these broad acre perennial polycultures. I think the next thing I'll be excited to watch is how the harvest/marketing goes for all these various crops. Can't wait to see a thousand unique Sheppard's Cider type brands: dried perma-berries, acorn baking mixes, or a well organized chestnut finished pork cooperative.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Luke Groce wrote:
I am enjoying keeping up with what the various folks out there are doing with these broad acre perennial polycultures. I think the next thing I'll be excited to watch is how the harvest/marketing goes for all these various crops. Can't wait to see a thousand unique Sheppard's Cider type brands: dried perma-berries, acorn baking mixes, or a well organized chestnut finished pork cooperative.


Just remember, if you're going to start a cider brand - make it from fresh juice of heirloom varieties, not "organic" concentrate from China!
 
Luke Groce
Posts: 49
Location: Louisville, KY
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Grant Schultz wrote:

Just remember, if you're going to start a cider brand - make it from fresh juice of heirloom varieties, not "organic" concentrate from China!


noted. (nobody will be standing in line to return to us the integrity we cashed in.)
 
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