This month I am taking a short break in my blog series “On-Farm Variety Trials” to share thoughts inspired by my weekend excursion to the Perennial Farm Gathering in Madison, Wisconsin.
Some call it permaculture, some call it woody perennial polyculture, some call it growing a grove! I call it inspiration! The Perennial Farm Gathering is an annual event for growers, enthusiasts, and activist who share a passion for perennializing the food system. The gathering is hosted by the Savanna Institute, a non-profit and friend of The Land Connection, who are working to develop paths for the planting, growth, and sale of perennial crops like chestnuts, hazelnuts, currents, and blackberries. Their ultimate goal is to convert much of midwestern american agriculture from annual monocrop corn/soybean rotation into perennial, highly diverse chestnut/hazelnut production. According to their co-founder Kevin Wolz, chestnuts are a high starch analogue of corn and hazelnuts are a high protein analogue of soybeans, perfect perennial replacements for the current cropping system!
Image credit: Savanna Institute
The benefits of a perennial food system are incredible. I often find myself imagining a drive along Illinois country roads where the summer view is rows of tall trees with bushy currents below, between which are strips of fertile grass pasture being grazed by cattle, hogs, and chickens. All of it edible. All of it delicious. Acres yielding multiple crops each year, pure abundance. These farms I wish to see from my passing window are rich with wildlife. Insects abound, pollinating the flowers of the berry bushes, keeping the balance between predator and pest. Birds swoop, gobbling up the buzzing flies, to nest in the nearby brush at the close of a hot day. Wildflowers grow in the pasture, dropping seeds for tiny mammals to enjoy. In winter, the ground is covered with a blanket of grass, fertilized with the droppings of the season’s grazed livestock. The spring rains come and beat down upon the thick cover of grass, quickly absorbed by the healthy soil below.
Pooling of water, soil erosion, nutrient leaching, collapse of insect populations, contamination of groundwater, loss of soil organic matter, burning of fossil fuels for pass after pass of equipment over the field, wildlife habitat loss, stream bank collapse, bare soil, brown views… all vanished, replaced by abundant biology, abundant life, regeneration. This is my dream. A dream of deep connection between humanity and our ecosystem.
We humans are in a relationship with nature, whether we acknowledge it or not, and relationships are based on reciprocity. How will you give back to nature all that she has provided you?
“I had a dream,
When I was young,
A dream of sweet illusion,
A glimpse of hope and unity,
And visions of one sweet union,
But a cold wind blows,
And a dark rain falls,
And in my heart it shows,
Look what they've done to my dream.”
- “One Vision”, Queen