Agriculture--raising crops and grazing animals--is practiced on roughly 45% of all land in the U.S., compared to around 12% of land protected for conservation of natural areas. While it is important to preserve and restore existing high-quality natural areas, embracing restorative practices on agricultural land could enhance conservation efforts by increasing habitat connectivity and seed banks for many species, maintaining carbon sequestration in soil and woody plants, decreasing erosion and improving water quality, and still maintaining productivity of diverse food crops. Restoration agriculture and permaculture techniques are being implemented by various Michigan farms, and can offer important intersections with ecological restoration. This roundtable discussion will feature brief talks from farmers/restorationists and a facilitated discussion among participants to share information about issues and techniques.
Mike Levine graduated from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan in 1995. He did ecological restoration for the Natural Area Preservation Division of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, co-directed Project Grow Community Gardens and worked at several Ann Arbor area organic farms. In 1999-2000, Mike managed Saguaro Plant Nursery. In 2000, Mike met Erica Kempter and soon thereafter they founded Nature and Nurture, LLC. Nature and Nurture is an organic farming and landscape gardening business in the Ann Arbor area. Projects include teaching organic fruit growing, a fruit nursery, cultivating shiitake mushrooms and other farm produce, and their newest venture, Nature and Nurture Seeds, specializing in heirloom and open pollinated vegetable varieties adapted to the Great Lakes bioregion. Mike is implementing restoration agriculture techniques on their 80 acre farm in Scio Twp.
Shannon began growing vegetables and fruits as a child and established Brines Farm in 2004 due to his passion for slow food and sustainable agriculture. He began selling year-round at farmers markets and offered one of Michigan’s first fresh produce winter CSA share programs. Shannon was selected as a member of the US delegation to participate in Terra Madre 2008 in Turin, Italy, a world slow food meeting focused on increasing small-scale, traditional and sustainable food production. Shannon is an applied geographer at the University of Michigan interested in land use, agriculture, food systems, public health and sustainable design. Shannon currently serves on the Slow Food Huron Valley Board, Local Food Summit Steering Committee, Greenbelt Advisory Commission and the student-initiated University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program Advisory Board. Shannon and his wife, Erin Mittendorf, live on (and steward!) 80 acres of farmland in northern Washtenaw County.
Restoration Agriculture Development
Mark Shepard is the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises and runs New Forest Farm, the 106-acre perennial agricultural forest considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States. New Forest Farm is a planned conversion of a typical row-crops grain farm into a commercial-scale, perennial agricultural ecosystem using oak savanna, successional brushland and eastern woodlands as the ecological models. Trees, shrubs, vines, canes, perennial plants and fungi are planted in association with one another to produce food (for humans and animals), fuel, medicines, and beauty. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts and various fruits are the primary woody crops. The farm is entirely solar and wind powered and farm equipment is powered with locally produced biofuels that are not taken from the human food chain. Trained in both mechanical engineering and ecology, Mark has developed and patented equipment and processes for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of forest derived agricultural products for human foods and bio fuels production. Mark was certified as a Permaculture designer in 1993 and received his Diploma of Permaculture design from Bill Mollison, the founder of the international Permaculture movement. Mark is founder and board President for Restoration Agriculture Institute and serves on the board of the Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development Council. He teaches agroforestry and Permaculture worldwide. Mark is a farmer member of the Organic Valley cooperative, the worlds largest Organic Farmer’s marketing co-op, and is the founder and chief Cydermaker for the Shepard’s Hard Cyder winery in Viola, Wisconsin.
Martin brings his love of design and diversity to restoration of natural systems to harmonize form function, production, and sustainability. His early appreciation of design honoring and integrating nature began during apprenticeship with a Japanese-trained temple carpenter, leading to projects such as the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Japanese pavilion. Today, Martin owns and orchestrates a residential design build business in Southeastern Michigan. With his partner, April Sage, he implements restoration agriculture principles on 80 acres in the Sharon Short Hills. With design and execution guidance from Mark Shepard, they have installed over 3 miles water management earthworks as the foundation of a perennial food forest system that will model the ancestral Oak Savanna guilds of the area. Certified in Permaculture Design (Geoff Lawton), and heavily influenced by Darren Doherty (Regrarians), Martin and April endeavor to establish an educational demonstration of biomimicry to guide sustainable, restorative food systems.
April’s interest in restoration practices began with the quest to revive the family’s farm in the Sharon Short Hills in a manner both productive and respectful of the natural ecosystem. Having both grown up, and raised her own children there, her eye is on the long term legacy of diversity, security, and love that a restorative, integrated approach offers to family, friends, and community. With her partner, Martin Clarke, April has begun implementation of restoration agriculture principles on the family farm. With design and execution guidance from Mark Shepard, they have installed over 3 miles water management earthworks as the foundation of a perennial food forest system that will model the ancestral Oak Savanna guilds of the area. Certified in Permaculture Design (Geoff Lawton), and heavily influenced by Darren Doherty (Regrarians), Martin and April endeavor to establish an educational demonstration of biomimicry to guide sustainable, restorative food systems.
Jacqueline Courteau - NatureWrite.com