Agroforestry Practices – Forest Farming

WITH TODAY’S PIONEERS– FOREST FARMERS
WHO ARE CULTIVATING HIGH-VALUE SPECIALTY CROPS, UNDER THE PROTECTION
OF A FOREST CANOPY THAT HAS BEEN MODIFIED
TO PROVIDE THE CORRECT
SHADE LEVEL. THESE FOREST FARMERS
ARE DERIVING INCOME TODAY, WHILE HIGH-QUALITY TREES
ARE BEING GROWN FOR QUALITY WOOD PRODUCTS
TOMORROW. TO SUCCEED AT FOREST FARMING,
YOU MUST KNOW YOUR PRODUCT, KNOW YOUR FOREST,
AND KNOW YOUR MARKET. Man: THE PHRASE
“YOU CAN’T SEE THE FOREST
THROUGH THE TREES” REALLY RINGS TRUE IF YOU’RE NOT LOOKING
AT INDIVIDUAL PLANTS AND INDIVIDUAL SPECIES. THEN YOU’RE MISSING
AN OPPORTUNITY THAT EXISTS. Man: FULLY HALF
OF THE FOREST LAND IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS IS ON ROW-CROP FARMS. IT’S THE BACK-FORTY, THAT NOBODY LOOKS AT
LIKE IT’S AN ASSET. Man: I MEAN, THERE’S
A MILLION WAYS TO SURVIVE. Marlin: IT TAKES AWHILE
FOR THE PLANTS TO
BECOME ESTABLISHED AND MATURE, BUT ONCE THEY DO, IT’S ESSENTIALLY GOING IN
AND DIGGING OUT. Man: WE’RE TURNING WOOD
INTO HIGH-VALUE FOOD. SO WE’RE GETTING
A HUGE BENEFIT OUT OF THAT. DEPENDING ON THE SPECIE, I CAN GO IN
AFTER A COMMERCIAL HARVEST TAKE WHAT THEY’VE LEFT– THEY CAN TAKE OFF
THE VENEER LOGS
AND EVERYTHING ELSE– AND TAKE WHAT THEY’VE LEFT
IN THE WOOD LOT AND MAKE AS MUCH
OR MORE MONEY OFF OF IT AS YOU CAN
THE LOGS THAT YOU REMOVED. IT’S ALL IN THE WAY
YOU CUT IT… AND THE WAY
YOU MARKET YOUR PRODUCT. IT’S NOT WHITE OAK OR RED OAK
OR ONE GREAT BIG THING. IT’S ALL THE SMALL THINGS–
ALL THE PIN BLANKS, THE GUN STOCKS,
THE TURNING SQUARES, THE HOBBY WOOD. IT’S THE UNUSUAL THINGS
THAT YOU MAKE AND MARKET FROM LOW-GRADE LOGS. IF YOU’RE WILLING TO DO THAT, THEN YOU GET ALL OF THE PIE
INSTEAD OF JUST A PIECE. KEEP IT SMALL, KEEP IT SIMPLE,
KEEP ALL THE MONEY AT HOME. DON’T BUY ANY MORE EQUIPMENT THAN IT TAKES
TO GET THE JOB DONE. BUT THEN GO TO WORK
AND DO THE JOB. AND STICK A SMILE ON YOUR FACE,
HAVE A POSITIVE OUTLOOK, BE ENTHUSIASTIC
ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT. SHOW PEOPLE ABOUT BOOK MATCHING, ABOUT THE HIGHLY FIGURED WOODS
THAT YOU’RE CUTTING. YOU KNOW, THE STUFF THAT
EVERYBODY ELSE CALLS GARBAGE, YOU CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE. THIS IS FIGURED WOOD. THIS IS DOMESTIC EXOTICS. THIS IS HOBBY WOOD,
NOT SCRAP. AND MARKET YOUR PRODUCTS
THAT AWAY. AND IF YOU’RE WILLING TO DO THAT AND IF YOU’RE WILLING
TO TALK WITH PEOPLE, IT’S AMAZING WHAT’LL HAPPEN. WHEN WE FIRST STARTED OUT, IT WAS A MATTER OF GENERATING
ENOUGH PUBLICITY. FRANKLY, PUBLICITY IS FREE. ADVERTISING IS EXPENSIVE. SO, I’M NOT BASHFUL, SO I SET ABOUT
GENERATING PUBLICITY. START AT THE LOCAL LIONS CLUB. THEY’LL FEED YA, YOU KNOW? AND YOU GET TO TALK ABOUT
STUFF YOU LOVE. DO A NEWS RELEASE. NEWS RELEASES
ARE VERY, VERY IMPORTANT. YOU GO TO ANY KIND OF
A SEMINAR OR PROGRAM,
AN EDUCATIONAL EVENT, YOU GO RIGHT HOME,
AND YOU WRITE ABOUT
THAT EDUCATIONAL EVENT. I ATTENDED THUS AND SUCH
AT CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI, AND THERE WAS X-NUMBER
OF PEOPLE THERE, AND WE LEARNED ABOUT– AND INCLUDE A PICTURE
OF YOURSELF AND/OR PRODUCT. AND SEND IT OUT
TO ALL THE LOCAL NEWSPAPERS, TITLED: “NEWS RELEASE.” YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED HOW MANY
OF THEM WILL PRINT THAT. WHAT IS THAT?
THAT’S PUBLICITY. AND THAT’S FREE. ONE OF THE KEYS TO SUCCESS
HERE AT ELIXIR FARM IS DIVERSITY OF THE ECONOMIC BASE. AND SO THAT INCLUDES
SEED PRODUCTION, PLANT PRODUCTION,
GROWING OF SPECIALTY CROPS FOR CONTRACT CLIENTS, AS WELL AS ECOTOURISM,
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS, AND ANY OTHER WAY WE CAN
FIGURE OUT TO MAKE A LIVING. THE THING ABOUT SPECIALTY CROPS,
IN GENERAL, IS IT TAKES A SPECIAL PERSON
TO PULL IT OFF. YOU JUST CAN’T GET RID
OF 500 ACRES OF CORN AND REPLACE THEM
WITH FIVE ACRES OF BASIL OR SOME OTHER CROP THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE
SEEN ON TV OR HEARD ABOUT
IN THE NEWSPAPER. AND BEFORE YOU EVEN
PUT A PLANT IN THE GROUND, YOU WANT TO SPEND
AT LEAST A YEAR RESEARCHING THE STATUS
OF THE MARKET AND REALLY DIG AND FIND OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN
BEHIND-THE-SCENES RESEARCH. AND DO IT FROM
A MULTIDISCIPLINARY STANDPOINT. SO YOU HAVE TO LOOK
AT MEDICAL LITERATURE
AND CHEMICAL LITERATURE AND PHARMACOLOGICAL LITERATURE. YOU ALSO HAVE TO LOOK
AT FORESTRY LITERATURE AND HORTICULTURAL LITERATURE. AND EVEN ECONOMICS
AND BUSINESS LITERATURE IN THE DIETARY SUPPLEMENT
MARKETPLACE. YOU HAVE TO BE DOING
A LOT OF RESEARCH. YOU HAVE TO BE
INCREDIBLY VIGILANT. YOU HAVE TO HAVE PASSION… AND PERHAPS SLIGHTLY INSANE. THIS IS AN INTERESTING PIECE
OF PROPERTY. THIS TRACK OF GROUND
QUALIFIED FOR C.R.P., CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM. THE STAND WE’RE STANDING IN
RIGHT NOW IS 14 YEARS OLD. AND, AS YOU CAN SEE,
WITH 14 YEARS OF GROWTH, WE’VE ACTUALLY DONE PRETTY WELL. WE’VE GROWN GOOD SIZE TREES. AND WE’RE FINALLY TO THE STAGE
WHERE THE TREES ARE TALL ENOUGH THAT WE’RE GETTING A LOT OF
UNDERSTORY NEEDLE FALL. AND OUR EMPHASIS
ON THIS PARTICULAR FARM IS TO FIND MONEY
IN THE SHORT COME BEFORE WE HARVEST THE TREES. AND THAT OPPORTUNITY
HAS COME ABOUT IN THE PROCESS OF
BALING PINE NEEDLES, WHICH IS A MARKET WE FOUND OUT,
OR LEARNED ABOUT DOWN SOUTH. AND IT’S NOT WELL-KNOWN
IN THIS AREA, BUT PEOPLE ARE BEGINNING
TO LEARN ABOUT IT. EVERYBODY ALWAYS COMMENTS
ON HOW NEAT THE YARD LOOKS, AND I THINK IT’S DUE
TO THE FACT THAT IT’S PUNCHBOWL. I USE IT COSMETICALLY, BECAUSE A PLANT REALLY SHOWS UP
WITH THAT AS THE BASE. I USE IT TO KEEP MY WEEDS DOWN. I USE IT TO FEED MY AZALEAS
BECAUSE IT’S HIGH IN ACID, AND THEY LIKE THAT VERY MUCH. I USE IT BECAUSE
IT HAS A SOFT LOOK. YOU GET ONE LADY OUT OF 20 TO START BEDDING
WITH PINE NEEDLES, IN THREE YEARS,
YOU GOT ALL 20 OF THEM. ‘CAUSE HER AZALEAS,
THEY GET BRIGHTER– THAT SLIGHT ACIDITY POP. THEY’RE ALL ADDING
MURIATIC ACID TO THEIR GROUND. ALL THEY GOT TO DO
IS PUT THAT ON THERE,
AND IT WORKS. AND WE SELL PROBABLY
1,500 BALES A YEAR TO PEOPLE THAT COME
TO THIS PLACE HERE
IN PICKUP TRUCKS, BUYING 25, 30 BALES AT A TIME. IF YOU CAN GET PAST
THE FIRST TEN YEARS, YOU CAN, IN THIS AREA,
I’VE EXPERIENCED, YOU CAN BEGIN TO TURN
ENOUGH MONEY TO KEEP UP
WITH BASIC LAND PAYMENTS AND SOME REVENUE. I’M NOT GONNA TELL YOU
IT’S AN EASY WAY TO GET RICH, BECAUSE EVERYTHING WE DO
IS VERY LABOR-INTENSIVE. AND…UH… THERE ARE A LOT OF HARDSHIPS
THAT WE’VE ENDURED, BUT IT’S BEEN A VERY
REWARDING EXPERIENCE, AND IT’S BEEN
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE. THE REALLY IMPORTANT THING
TO REMEMBER ABOUT SHIITAKE PRODUCTION IS ONCE YOU INOCULATE THAT LOG, THAT LOG IS GOOD
FOR THE WHOLE PRODUCTION CYCLE UNTIL IT BECOMES
A SPENT LOG. SO YOU ONLY INOCULATE
A LOG ONCE IN ITS LIFE, RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING. AND THEN YOU HAVE TO
REALLY MAINTAIN THAT LOG AT ABOUT 35 PERCENT
MOISTURE CONTENT. AND THEY NEED TO BE KEPT
IN 80 PERCENT SHADE. Dan Hellmuth:
THESE ARE THE LOGS HERE THAT
HAVE BEEN NEWLY INOCULATED. AND THESE WILL STAY
IN THIS CONFIGURATION FOR APPROXIMATELY ONE YEAR UNTIL THE SPAWN
IS TAKEN OVER COMPLETELY– THE SAPWOOD OF THE LOG. YOU CAN SEE THIS PORTION OF
THESE WHERE ALL THE SUGARS ARE THAT THE MYCELIUM ACTUALLY
LIVES IN AND SPREADS IN. THESE LOGS ARE READY
TO GO INTO PRODUCTION AS SOON AS THE WEATHER
SETTLES DOWN. WE’LL BE TAKING SOME OF THESE
OUT INTO THE LAYING YARD, WHICH IS OVER HERE, AND THEN SOME WILL BE
GOING UP IN THE GREENHOUSE, WHICH IS BEHIND HERE. AND WILL GO START THEIR
FULL PRODUCTION LIFE. SO IT IS LIKE MILKING COWS. SOMETIMES YOU
HAVE TO COME OUT HERE
AND PICK TWICE A DAY. SO WATCH YOUR PRODUCT, BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T
PICK THEM CORRECTLY, THEN THE NEXT DAY YOU COME IN AND ALL THE MUSHROOMS
ARE ALL THE WAY OPEN AND FLAT, AND THEN MAYBE IT RAINED, AND YOU’VE LOST YOUR
TOP-QUALITY MUSHROOM. SO YOU DO
HAVE TO WATCH YOUR CROP, ESPECIALLY IN THE HOT WEATHER
BECAUSE THEY GROW SO QUICKLY. Dave Owens: I’VE GOT A FEW
OF THE OZARK FOREST
SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS. MacPherson: AND THEN WE
MARKET DIRECTLY TO CHEFS, CATERING COMPANIES, PRIVATE COUNTRY CLUBS, SPECIALISTIC FOOD SHOPS,
WINE AND CHEESE SHOPS, WHOLEFOODS AND WILD OATS
SUPERMARKETS, AND ALSO
A FEW SCHNUCKS SUPERMARKETS. THE GREAT THING ABOUT THEM
IS THEY’RE GROWN OUTSIDE AND NOT INSIDE IN SOME SAWDUST
LIKE SOME OTHER OPERATIONS. THEY PROVIDE SOMETHING
THAT’S IS DIFFERENT IN THE FACT THAT
THEY’RE DYNAMIC TO THE SEASON. WHEN IT’S REALLY HOT,
THE MUSHROOMS LOOK DIFFERENT THAN WHEN THE WEATHER
IS JUST RIGHT. ALSO IN THE SPRING
AND THE FALL, YOU GET THESE GROWTH SPURTS, AND YOU GET A MUSHROOM
CALLED A DONKO MUSHROOM THAT HAS A VERY DISTINCTIVE
PATTERN AND TEXTURE, MUCH MORE LIKE THE REAL THING. MacPherson: WE’VE BECOME PART
OF THE CHEF’S COLLABORATIVE WHERE THEY PROMOTE LOCAL FARMS AND LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTS
IN THEIR RESTAURANTS. YOU SEE THAT ON THE MENU. THEY WON’T JUST SAY,
“SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
ON THE MENU WITH STEAK.” THEY’LL ACTUALLY SAY,
“OZARK FOREST
SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS.” AND THEN YOU KNOW
YOU’VE REALLY EDUCATED THE CHEF AND THE PERSON
WHO EATS THE FOOD, AND THEN THEY GO
TO THE SUPERMARKET AND WILL SEE THE PRODUCT IN THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT
AT THE SUPERMARKET. AND THEY’LL SEE
THE NAME THERE AGAIN, AND THE CONNECTION IS MADE. THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT–
IS MAKING THOSE CONNECTIONS. EVERYBODY WAS GARDENING, SO IT WAS JUST FUN
TO WALK THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND SEE WHO WAS DOING WHAT. AND ONE DAY ON A LAMP POST
THERE WAS A FLYER, SAYING, “COME SATURDAY, 8:00,
PLANT SALE.” WE GOT THERE
AND IT WAS JOHN MARLIN’S HOUSE. AND THEN TO DISCOVER THAT
HE WAS TURNING THE MONEY OVER TO HIS CHILDREN’S SCHOOL
ACTIVITIES WAS REALLY WONDERFUL. WORKING WITH THE WILDFLOWERS
ACTUALLY CAME WITH AN IDEA I HAD WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I WANTED TO HAVE
A KOOL-AID STAND. I WANTED TO SELL SOMETHING
JUST FOR FUN. AND SO MY DAD SUGGESTED, “WHY DON’T WE START PLAYING WITH
THE WILDFLOWERS A LITTLE BIT AND GROWING THEM.” IN THIS AREA IS WHERE WE
PROPAGATE OUR MAY APPLES AND OUR BLUEBELLS. ONCE YOU GET
A BED LIKE THIS ESTABLISHED, YOU ALMOST FEEL BAD ABOUT
CHARGING MONEY FOR THE PLANTS BECAUSE THE PROPAGATION PROCESS IS JUST WEEDING OUT
THE EXCESS PLANTS THAT GROW HERE AND WE GET ABOUT $400 PER YEAR
FROM THIS SMALL AREA ALONE. OUR MARKETING STRATEGY
WAS MAINLY FLYERS AROUND TOWN. WE ALSO HAD A DATA BASE, WHICH I MAINTAINED
WITH SEVERAL NAMES, ABOUT 400 NAMES,
OF PEOPLE LOCALLY
AND AROUND THE AREA. FOR BULK WE CAN SELL
IN EITHER SPRING OR FALL. YOU GET THE PLANTS
WHEN THEY’RE SMALL,
PUT THEM IN A TRAY, AND THEN YOU SHIP THEM
TO THE INSTITUTION OR DEVELOPER THAT’S
GOING TO BUY THEM. WE HAVE WORKED WITH THE MARLINS
SINCE ABOUT THE YEAR 2000. WE’D MET THEM BEFORE THAT
AND HAD BEEN TALKING TO THEM, BUT IN THE YEAR 2000, WE HAD
A GIFT GIVEN BY A SORORITY TO FUND THIS WORK. THE UNIVERSITY IS VERY PLEASED
WITH WHAT WE’RE SEEING HERE. WE’RE VERY PLEASED WITH
THEIR LEVEL OF MAINTENANCE THAT WE’VE HAD TO DO. WE’VE REALLY DONE
NOTHING MORE THAN JUST ADD
A THIN LAYER OF MULCH ONCE OR TWICE
OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS. IT TOOK A LITTLE EDUCATION
ON OUR PART TO NOT TRY TO MAINTAIN
MORE THAN WHAT WE HAVE DONE. BUT THAT’S
A NICE PROBLEM TO HAVE, SO WE’VE BEEN
VERY PLEASED WITH THAT. WE’VE BEEN PLEASED WITH
HOW THINGS HAVE DEVELOPED
OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS. IT’S A LITTLE SLOWER THAN WHAT
A TYPICAL LANDSCAPE WOULD DO, BUT THAT’S OKAY, BECAUSE
WE THINK IT WILL LAST LONGER. THEY’RE SO EASY TO TAKE CARE OF.
THEY TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES. THEY END UP SEEDING THEMSELVES
SEASON TO SEASON. WE NEVER KNOW WHERE
A CELANDINE POPPY’S GONNA POP UP NEXT. AND THAT’S THE FUN PART OF IT. AND THEN WHEN YOU HAVE TOO MANY,
YOU CAN POD THEM UP AND GIVE THEM TO
THE GIRLS’ SCHOOL TEACHERS OR AS A MOTHER’S DAY GIFT. John Marlin: WHAT WE’VE SHOWN IN SOME OF OUR SETTINGS IS IF A FARMER WOULD HAVE
A SMALL PLOT IN THE WOODS THAT HE DEVOTED TO, SAY,
MAY APPLES, OR ANOTHER PLANT LIKE THAT, YOU COULD ON A SUSTAINABLE BASIS TAKE HUNDREDS OF PLANTS OUT OF
RELATIVELY SMALL AREA ANNUALLY, PROVIDED YOU DID IT CAREFULLY, AND DIDN’T DISTURB THE SOIL
IN SUCH A WAY THAT YOU GOT GARLIC, MUSTARD,
OR OTHER INVASIVE PLANTS
TAKING OVER. SO IT’S A MATTER OF BEING
CAREFUL WITH WHAT YOU’RE DOING. I’M TALKING ABOUT SMALL PLOTS
IN THE WOODS, NOT THE ENTIRE WOODS. WE’VE GOT WOODS IN ILLINOIS WHERE MOST OF
THE NATIVE WILDFLOWERS
HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED. WE’VE BEEN DOING THIS
FOR TEN YEARS, AND OUR SURPLUSES
HAVE ONLY GONE UP WITH TREMENDOUS SALES. SO IF YOU PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY,
LEARN THE PLANTS, THEN YOU’LL HAVE NO PROBLEM. Narrator: THERE ARE MANY
DIFFERENT TYPES OF FOREST
FARMING PRACTICES. EACH ON IS PARTICULAR
TO THE PRODUCER, WOOD LOT, PRODUCT, AND MARKET. HOWEVER, THEY ALL
UTILIZE THE FOREST TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT
FOR SPECIALTY CROPS TODAY, WHILE GROWING TREES FOR
WOOD PRODUCTS TOMORROW. BY KNOWING YOUR PRODUCT,
THE FOREST AND THE MARKET, YOU WILL INCREASE
YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS. FOREST FARMING PRACTICES
CREATE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND TAKE PRESSURE OFF
OUR NATURAL FOREST ECOSYSTEMS. IT MAY BE ILLEGAL TO HARVEST
WILD PLANT POPULATIONS FOUND IN THE NATURAL FOREST. THIS VIDEO WAS MADE BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
CENTER FOR AGROFORESTRY WITHIN THE COLLEGE OF
AGRICULTURE, FOOD, AND NATURAL RESOURCES.

13 comments

  1. I wonder if we can exchange some experience. We work under tropical rainforest conditions, but your experience would be interesting for us. See our videos, maybe this is something interesting for you too. Thanks for all the information you have on your videos. Greetings – Chilis from the forest – DaMata

  2. Very cool video, I found it very educational. it's great to see people working to make landscaped fields to farm produce from that is self sustaining, and help show there community how to do the same kind of beautiful landscaping in there own back yard. or make a business out of it and make it sustainable. to bad this kind of stuff doesn't get viewed by people more often.

  3. Nice…you really care for trees. My grandfather is a kiln dry operator in Nasipit Lumber Company, owned and run by Mr. Mersh, an American. The company is already close and we don't have the old growth anymore that is good source for seeds for planting. We mismanage our forest.

  4. Ugh! It’s “can’t see the forest FOR the trees,” not “THROUGH the trees”! I’m sorry I’m being rude but I keep hearing people misquote this colloquialism lately and it’s finally pushed me over the edge. 🙂

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