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Some Impact Man #16: Tree Crops

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Blog entry by daltxguy posted 04-27-2013 06:02 AM 1354 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 15: Green houses for cold climates - 4 different ideas Part 16 of Some Impact Man series Part 17: Post Walden Experience »

As I reestablish myself on a new continent, I’m excited to finally find myself in a place where a book like “Tree Crops—A Permanent Agriculture”by J. Russell Smith (published in 1920’s and this link downloads it free ) is applicable (because of the variety of trees available and the suitability of the climate)

Much of what J Russel Smith wrote about in 1920 is still valid today,nearly 100 years later. We are still experiencing large amounts of soil loss each year through industrialized agriculture which renders the soil sterile and lifeless and subject to large scale erosion by wind and rain. We are still missing out on huge opportunities to use less desirable land to grow food in the form of trees, without tillage, without irrigation, without massive amounts of energy and pesticide inputs based on fossil fuels.

The work which he started and encouraged us to continue ( ie: the development of crops suitable to be grown in forest settings and steep terrain) is still going on by a few devoted, passionate individuals.

I’ve come across 2 individuals which continue his work and have commercial operations to offer the products of their work and to support further experimentation. Each offers unusual and rare options for tree cropping in climates suitable for North America

In Canada, Ken Taylor of Green Barn Nursery focuses on cold climate varieties which are well suited for short growing seasons with long, cold winters. The fruit trees bloom later, fruit develops fully in the time available and can endure the low temperatures found in the climates of the northeast. Ken’s pet project is to reintroduce paw paw (Asimina Triloba – picture above), a native, tropical like fruit to our orchards and yards.

In the US, Ken Asmus of Oikos Tree Crops
Ken notes that “There are over 15,000 species of plants that have been used for food by man. Only 150 of these are commercially cultivated.”

[Note to anyone named “Ken” – this is obviously your line of work!]

I encourage you to check them out, learn about their work and perhaps invest in the future by considering planting trees for food instead of for ornamentation or using annual crops for food.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau



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daltxguy

882 posts in 2704 days
hardiness zone 4a

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11 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3606 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-27-2013 06:29 AM

1. I, too, noted the “Ken” coincidence!
2. Pawpaw—- grrr. I had one that was about 5’ tall and the lawnmower accidentally ran over it. The two babies that I have since purchased don’t seem to be growing—and then I noticed this year that the rabbits are eating the tops each spring. The fences I have for them are obviously not tall enough.

3. You make my skin tingle as I read about the importance of trees and the wealth of food available if we plant more trees – fruit and nuts. Rather than getting out in my garden this morning I spent (too much) time on the Green Barn Nursery site – drooling, dreaming, and, yes, purchasing. I hope I’m not too late with ordering. (Much of my time spent was dwindling down the wish list to an affordable order!! It was “tree heaven”.)

I can’t wait to watch the video.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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daltxguy

882 posts in 2704 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 04-27-2013 11:16 AM

MsDeb – you already have a good amount of fruit and nut trees so you are doing better than most. Things seems to be against you with the pawpaws, but I hope they survive all of the assaults on them.
I hope you get your selections this spring from GBN.

I too was overwhelmed with choice on the green barn nursery site (not that they have too much, but it’s difficult to determine the reason for buying one vs another, they all sound good). My criteria was to look for fruit which keeps well, so any abundance can be overwintered for as long as possible as is, without having the need to preserve or freeze.

The best time to plant a tree is yesterday!

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 2869 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-27-2013 06:07 PM

No need to convince me…..I am already a believer in tree crops. : )

Let us know what you choose to plant, DXG.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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daltxguy

882 posts in 2704 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 04-27-2013 06:47 PM

In a way my plans may be as ambitious as MsDeb’s

I ordered the following
Grapes:
Big Blue Grape
Swenson White Grape
Swenson Red Grape
Earliblue Seedless Grape

Fruit:
Arctic Red Plum
Chinese Apricot
Sauvignac Pear
Luscious Pear
Enterprise Apple

Nut(s):
Black Walnut

I already have some young black cherry onsite and a crabapple ( so I am hoping that it will pollinate the apple) but otherwise about an acre of blank slate ( quite incredible for a 70 year old house!)

In the way of perennial vegetable and fruits, I am putting in some strawberries, asparagus and I’ll be lifting some thimbleberries from a source I found near the forest as well as trying to transplant some american hazelnut. I’m also encouraging dandelion and have already had a few nibbles of fresh leaves. I have lots of sumac onsite as well.

I’ll also be putting in an annual garden, which I have to start from scratch on a very large patch of grass. Luckily I have a giant mound of mulch/compost from the previous owners, who were steadfast nature haters and cut everything down and piled it up in one corner of the lot.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 2869 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-28-2013 12:23 AM

DXG, sounds like a great start! We are growing the American Hazelnut, Enterprise Apple and the Manchurian Apricot (same plant, different name?). Our hazelnut harvests have been small but growing; we had our first Enterprise Apple harvest last year and our Manchurian Apricot trees have just started to blossom. The other tree varieties you have chosen are new to me. Let me know how they do for you.

Sometimes a blank slate is easier than trying to work around plantings that don’t work well with nature. At least the former owners didn’t just dispose of all that carbon. Now you can return it to the soil where it belongs. Still, it sounds like lots of work, so I hope you have lots of maple syrup on hand so that you can reward yourself on a regular basis. : )

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3606 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 04-29-2013 08:54 AM

I should have added grapes to my purchase order!!
I already have 3 varieties growing but I really like the focus on varieties for our climate and I “need” more grapes.

Sometimes my knees and hips really bother me but then I open up a jar of my grape juice and with just one pint the next day the legs are fine again. So … I need to include more grapes in my diet. I have no idea what the magic ingredient is.

As for the blank slate, I agree that you can now do it the way you want but doesn’t it make you sad to see people getting rid of natural environment and replacing it with grass.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3606 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 05-03-2013 02:36 PM

I have spent about 1 minute skimming through the first of the Tree Crops book and I’m already shaking my head. This was written in 1929 and the Wisdom of permaculture and forest gardening was already wagging its finger at grain fields and polycultures… 1929. Oh we have come so far! Huh.
We are slow learners, aren’t we?!!

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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daltxguy

882 posts in 2704 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 05-03-2013 03:57 PM

RFG – might be a few years before I have the verdict – but Ken Taylor develops these varieties after extensive testing at his farm near Montreal so I don’t expect to be disappointed.

As for my ‘blank slate’ – there is a lot of space for many different types of gardens but there are mature trees onsite already – 1/2 dozen youngish red oaks and a more mature white oak, mature (and very healthy) elm, several green ash trees, 2 large red maples (which got tapped earlier this year) – about 15 very large white pines (30m+), several red pines, countless spruce trees and smaller white pines, 3 very large balsam poplars, a thicket of sumac and some dying/dead trees for the woodpeckers and the aforementioned giant compost pile – and yet there is still huge swathes of grass – far too much for my liking.

MsDeb – J Russel Smith was far ahead of his time but this was also the time of Ruth Stout and I am sure, others. Not too many people were listening or the assumption was that technology would resolve the issues – it hasn’t – it has only made it worse. So, now, we have to go back and listen to the wisdom of the elders…

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3606 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 05-04-2013 12:23 AM

now if the politicians would only do some listening!

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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daltxguy

882 posts in 2704 days
hardiness zone 4a

posted 05-04-2013 11:00 AM

Politicians never will – they lean whichever way the money blows. As Greg Palast (investigative journalist) says “We have the best democracy money can buy”- so, it’s entirely up to us.

-- Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Thoreau

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3606 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 05-04-2013 03:01 PM

too bad they don’t remember that they ARE “us”.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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