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Seeking Forest Garden professional.

 
Kristian Rasmussen
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Hi all

I am looking for a forest garden professional, to help (paid work) with the planing and establishing a 125 acre, low maintenance forest garden in the Hudson Valley NY, using mostly native, regional species. If anyone knows of any one or a company that could handle a job like that, please get in touch.
 
eric koperek
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TO: Kristian Rasmussen
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: Establishing "Forest Gardens"
DATE: PM 7:35 Monday 25 April 2016
TEXT:

(1) I can help you with your project but you should be able to do this all by yourself -- it's not rocket science. I come from Austria where we have been "designing" forests since the 19th century. Forestry was invented in Germany and we know more about trees than most folks.

(2) You can get help from your state extension forester. The state might also supply you with free trees.

(3) Before you embark on a project of this size you need to have a very clear idea of your goals = exactly what you want to accomplish. Do you intend this to be a commercial enterprise or a hobby farm? What do you want to grow?

(4) Note that this will be a long term project = the benefits will be reaped by your children and grandchildren. In Austria we measure time in generations.

(5) Please send me more specific information so I can make more detailed recommendations.

ERIC
 
eric koperek
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TO: Kristian Rasmussen
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: "Forest Garden" Project
DATE: PM 4:33 Thursday 28 April 2016
TEXT:

(1) Here follows some general advice about your "Forest Garden" project. If you provide detailed information I can send you precise recommendations.

(2) I grew up in a "designer forest" where every tree was hand planted. This is typical of German-style forestry just about anywhere in Western Europe. The "forest garden" you propose is NOT a new concept. Scientifically managed forests (for timber and mast = nuts & fruits) go back to the early 1700's in Germany. Coppice managed forests go back to Roman times.

(3) If you want your project to be economically successful, throw away everything you have ever read about "permaculture". Start reading serious books about forestry, agro-forestry, and biological plantation management. "Permaculture" is the intellectual equivalent of woodlot management for hippies. Management of entire forest ecosystems requires adult thinking.

(4) You need to start with a timber survey = an economic evaluation of how many trees are ready to be cut and sold. In Pennsylvania the State Department of Forestry will do this for free. At the same time, they will also mark weed trees that need to be removed so the remaining trees have enough room to grow. A timber survey is important because it will tell you approximately how much money you can earn from your land right now. With this information you can have timber cutting companies bid on your trees. Once marketable trees are harvested you will have cash that you can use to develop your forest. (The idea is that everything you do should pay for itself. Managing a forest is a business just like farming or any other investment). Ask for help from your State Forestry Department. Alternatively, contract a private forester to evaluate your timber.

(5) You might want to consider establishing a nature reserve. This will take your land off the tax rolls and save you money. An environmental trust will not prevent you from living on or using your land but will make you eligible for government grants and loans that you can use to further develop your forest. Talk to your lawyer about this as rules and regulations vary between states and also the Federal Government = Internal Revenue Service.

(6) The U.S. Department of Natural Resources Conservation (the old Soil Conservation Service) can also provide valuable assistance. You need to develop a watershed management plan for your forest. The goal is to capture every drop of rain that falls on your land = zero runoff. This is important because forestry is all about managing surface water and aquifers. You need water for fish and wildlife, fire control, irrigation (for tree nurseries and agro-forestry plantations), and potable water supplies. You can get technical assistance, grants and loans from both State and Federal Governments for building dams and other water conservation projects.

(7) Your State fish and game service can help develop your streams, ponds, and lakes for commercial or recreational use, for example, building weirs, raceways, gravel beds, and pools to help increase fish populations and improve water quality. Technical and financial assistance is also available for these projects.

( The U.S. Forest Service and your State Forestry Department will help develop a network of roads and trails to make your forest accessible for commercial and recreational use. A well designed and constructed road network is essential for commercial forestry operations. Badly built or poorly maintained roads cause much damage to the forest as well as substantial soil erosion and water loss. Forest road engineering is a technical subject = you need professional advice. Don't let a tree cutting company loose with their bulldozers.

(9) Many states provide free deer fencing to farmers. Ask your State Agriculture Department for assistance. You will need deer fencing to protect your tree nursery as well as agro-forestry plantations. You might also have to install hog fencing if wild pigs are a problem in your area.

(10) Animal control is an essential part of forest conservation. Too many deer or elk can ravage forests to the point where the ecosystem is no longer sustainable = the animals eat all the young trees and anything within reach. You need to talk to your State game commission about developing a wildlife management plan for your forest. This is not just about hunting nuisance animals. You might want to encourage animal populations by planting lanes and clearings with forage crops specifically to feed wildlife. Some states provide free seed for wildlife pasture projects.

(11) Some states provide free seedlings for re-forestation projects. Ask your State Forestry Department about the availability of tree seedlings for private land owners or charitable trusts. Some states have forest nurseries that sell low-cost seedlings to the public.

(12) I do not have any information on the topography of your forest but you should consider the possibility of water power. Your forest might have potential for micro-hydro or pico-hydro projects for mechanical power or electricity. What is possible depends on stream flow and elevation. You should survey your forest for hydro-power potential as part of your watershed management plan. If you are fortunate you might have enough water to run a wood working shop so you can make furniture and cabinets from your own lumber.

(13) You need to determine where you want to emphasize your forest management. For example, do you want to concentrate on wood products, fishing, deer & hog ranching, recreation, food crops, maple syrup production, or some combination = multiple use forestry? Do you expect a profit? Is it OK just to break even? Or do you want to operate your forest as a tax loss? I can't read your mind so you will have to provide me (or any other consultant) with this information.

(14) Do you have natural gas under your forest? This can yield substantial income but I advise you to proceed with great caution. It is easy to get cheated and if a well is drilled in your forest the environmental damage can be substantial unless you plan carefully in advance. Do not even consider signing a gas lease until you have spent about 6 weeks reading public information available on the Internet. You really need to be an informed consumer in order to read and understand a typical gas lease (which is full of booby-traps for the unwary). Do not rely on your family lawyer for advice. Most attorneys know little or nothing about the pitfalls of gas leasing.

(15) Most private forests are managed for wood products: Structural timber, lumber, veneer, fire wood, Christmas trees, pulp wood, biofuel (wood chips or charcoal), and unique species for special markets (such as tulip poplar for wood bowls or sweet gum trees for barrel staves). What you plant depends on the most profitable markets available locally. What you decide affects most every aspect of your forest management plan. For example, if you want to grow Christmas trees then you must have critter control or the deer or elk will eat the terminal shoots. Deformed Christmas trees have zero value because no one will buy them.

(16) Most permaculture enthusiasts have idyllic visions of acorn oaks and berry bushes. Allow me to pour a barrel of cold water on your intellectual campfire: Very few permaculture operations are economically viable = most lose money or provide little food or other products. Those few permaculture projects that do earn money are agro-forestry plantations located in tropical climates with year-round growing seasons, more sunlight, and vastly more species of economically useful plants. Life is much more difficult in temperate climates with short growing seasons and cold winters. What can be done in the tropics is much more difficult or impossible to accomplish in cold northern forests like New York. Proceed with this caution in mind. (I know you don't want to hear this but you need some reality therapy).

(17) Trees grown for timber, lumber, or veneer must be spaced close together so they grow tall and straight. Closely spaced trees = little light reaches the forest floor. Forget about growing fruits, nuts, and berries in a commercial forest. These plants along with garden vegetables and grains require maximum sunlight in order to yield profitably. No you can't train grape vines to grow up forest trees and no you can't harvest wild cherries without a hydraulic lift (or unless you want to climb a 40-foot ladder). If this is what you intend then you are in for a rude surprise.

(1 Spacing trees widely apart = much more labor is needed for yearly pruning and weed control. Widely spaced forests are possible but rarely economic unless managed as agro-forestry plantations. How much time do you want to spend farming? Crops don't just grow by themselves. Berry bushes require attention or yields are negligible. Yes, it is possible to manage a forest for mast = fruits, nuts, and berries for animals. This is NOT the same as growing economically profitable crops for people. Decide exactly what you want to accomplish before you start planting.

(19) If you want to grow tree fruits, nuts, grapes, berries, vegetables, grains, wildflowers or ornamental plants in your forest the best way to do this is to open clearings then plant like things together. The result is a checkerboard or crazy quilt mixture of forest and cropland = agro-forestry. This is both practical and profitable. The alternative is widely spacing trees and growing a jumble of species together. This is possible but not usually economic in countries with high labor costs. Variations of this theme include widely spaced trees in rows. Each row contains an unrelated species. This increases mechanical and management efficiency while preserving sufficient biodiversity to keep insect pests under control.

(20) Widely spaced trees allow much more sunlight to reach the forest floor. However, this approach can backfire because more light = more weeds, brush, saplings, and brambles. How much time do you want to spend driving a brush hog through your "forest garden" or do you intend to range animals (goats or cattle) to keep the forest floor open? The alternative is to grow field crops, forages, or living mulches between the trees. All of these possibilities are properly called agro-forestry = mixing forests or orchards with other crop plants and often grazing animals as well.

(21) You can convert a wild forest into a "forest garden" by selective planting. Every time a tree is harvested plant a fruit or nut tree in the vacant space. Over time the forest will contain only mast trees. Yields from untended trees are low but a little bit from thousands of trees can add up to a sizable crop. Harvesting a handful here and a handful there over hundreds of acres is not economic but is practical for aboriginal Indians (hunting & gathering cultures) or subsistence agriculture. If you like to go "nutting" every fall then this is the easiest way to accomplish your objective. Alternatively, plant a dozen grafted walnut trees around your house. You will get much higher yields for much less effort and expense.

(22) Designer forests need at least 40 species of trees per square mile = 640 acres. This is the minimum number required to maintain environmental diversity over 4 harvest cycles. Use this a a guide for your tree planting program. (This number was determined empirically by German foresters in the 18th century. Forest ecosystems collapsed after 3 or 4 cycles of cutting when only one or a few species of trees were planted).

(23) "Widely spaced" trees = don't plant any tree closer than its mature height. For example: Standard apple trees usually grow 25 to 30 feet tall. (Some varieties grow higher). Plant apples 30 feet apart in your "forest garden". Carpathian = English Walnut trees grow 60 to 80 feet high. Plant walnuts 80 feet apart in your "forest garden". This will let enough sunlight reach the soil surface so you can grow wheat (or other crops) under the walnut trees = agro-forestry. When in doubt, always choose the widest practical spacing. This is how commercial tropical plantations grow 40 different crops per acre. "Permaculture" is NOT a new concept. 100 years ago it was called practical plantation management.

(24) As a general rule, don't plant anything unless you can eat or sell it. Everything you plant should have clear economic value or your forest will not be profitable. There is one exception to this rule: Sometimes you might have to plant trees for environmental rather than economic reasons. For example, reforestation projects often require nurse trees to restore the ecology and protect seedlings of economic species.

(25) WARNING: Tree cutting is one of the most dangerous occupations on this planet! Please do not go out into your forest and play lumberjack. If you intend to do your own tree felling, get professional training first. You need to learn about tree harvesting and proper use and maintenance of chainsaws and other forestry equipment. Don't fell trees by yourself. Always have someone with you. And make sure that you have proper safety equipment. Timbering is a lethal business. Your "Forest Garden" can kill you. Be thoughtful. Do nothing with haste and everything with great caution.

(26) Please be realistic in your expectations. Real world forestry is serious business. Please do not think that you can go wandering in the woods with a basket and pick dinner. Life is not quite so utopian, no matter what the permaculture advocates say.

(27) I have a modest website that contains 2 articles that may be of interest to you: "Coppicing Primer" and "The Edge Effect". Please visit: www.agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com

(2 Please contact me if I can be of further assistance: ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment
 
taylor burt
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eric has offered you a lot of very good advice. 125 acres is a lot of land to evaluate, design, plant, tend-to, manage & harvest. determining your fundamental short-term and long-term goals for the land, then performing a detailed site analysis, and developing a master plan are great first steps. as for recommendations, my wife is an ecological landscape designer based in southern VT, but she has at least one client over in the hudson valley - you should get in touch with her and chat: www.edavisdesign.com

she recently did a 200+ acre site analysis and master plan for a town-owned forest over in MA, and she also specializes in working with native species, so it seems like it could be a good fit.

best of luck and looking forward to hearing about your progress!
 
Kristian Rasmussen
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Wau Eric, thanks a lot! There is so much great information in there, you should publish that as a general guide to starting large scale forest projects somewhere on this site.

I am from Denmark myself and often go traveling in Swartzwald, Germany. Gorgeous forests, and beautifully managed! We are also working together with Holz100 to build our house, they harvest their wood in Austria (so-called moon wood) http://www.thoma.at Erwin Thoma is the forest geek and wood nerd behind it all, you might find that interesting.

The project is a co-op and I will send your post on to the others so we can start planing, thanks again Eric, great stuff!

Thank you for the advice Taylor, once we have digested Erics words and done a more thorough definition of our project, we might reach out to your wife for further assistance.

 
Ellen Stewart
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bee forest garden fungi
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If you wanted to be the designer, or if you want to make the best decision about who to hire, Dave Jacke (author of Edible Forest Gardens) will be teaching at Heartwood this June. The course he is teaching will give you a solid foundation for understanding Forest garden design. Having knowledge about it could definitely help you choose a designer - if you would still rather someone else implement it, though you could potentially do it yourselves! I will attach more info about it. It would be great for helping you manage so much land! Forest Garden Design Course
 
R Thomason
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I think you have been given you good advice. Here are two sites I refer to when I want to survey what is going on the permaculture sector in a given region.

http://www.permacultureactivist.net/pcresources/NorthAmerica/NorthAmerica.htm#newyork

http://permacultureglobal.org/users (This one has a map that allows you to zoom into the location of the practitioner.)

These sites are starting points for further research and consideration. Best luck and I'm happy that you want to tend to the land with such care and intelligence.

R
 
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