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Foreword

Te work of Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel is


situated at this intersection. Tey are agroforesters,
and in this spirit complement rather than co-opt
temperate forest biodiversity. Carrying out their trade
at the interface between species is part and parcel of
their philosophy. Opportunities to interact with the
abundance of forest life for betterment of both people
and environment are embraced. In so doing, they aim
to integrate forest farming and permaculture alongside
silviculture within a single framework. As such, theirs
is a notable infection in the dialogue and direction
of sustainable food, wood, medicine, and decorative-
materials production.
Like any good agroforester, the authors work with
complex and sometimes unpredictable production
systems. By necessity, therefore, they are adaptive
managers, using creative problem solving via perma-
culture principles and practices to respond to lessons
learned. Te challenges faced today in terms of food
and health security along with questions surrounding
energy and climate wholly warrant such an approach.
And instead of articulating beliefs and lamenting chal-
lenges without ofering comprehensible recourse, their
book positions forest farming as a practical process and
provides a sizable survey of cold temperate production
possibilities. Perhaps most impressive is that they
supplement this useful content with case studies of
successful forest farmers.
Te authors begin by sharing their worldview of
farming and forestry. In their own way, they chal-
lenge divisions in cold temperate land-use regimes,
discussing how historical compartmentalization of
farming and forestry systems reduced landscapes into
parts that subsequently became alienated. Te theme
is that this boundary disserves contemporary needs.
Be it planting trees with crops or livestock in the feld
or growing non-timber crops alongside timber logs in
the forest, fnding mutual ground when and where
A few years ago I asked a group of around one-hundred
and ffy farmers how many own forested land. About
ninety percent raised their hands. I then asked how
many actively manage their forests. Two hands
remained. So it goes. Farmers generally confne their
work to the feld. Here and there they may cut trees
or turn out livestock to relieve pastures, but forest
management within a farming enterprise is rare. At the
same time, many of the forests owned by government,
nonprofts, investment institutions, industry, and
families run the same course. From time to time these
owners also use their forests, but likewise contribute
to the patchwork penumbra that befalls the modern
temperate legacy.
Aside from intensively managed tree plantations,
which produce a great deal of wood but account for a
relatively small portion of forested land, extensive uses
of temperate forests such as outdoor recreation and the
occasional timber harvest are most common. Whether
acted out in the woodlands of a farm or in the remnant
forests of a rolling, rural residential development, these
uses provide much-needed material like timber and
valued amenities such as hunting. Te trouble is most
are not the result of an integrated plan. Temperate
forests are therefore useful but mostly not well used.
Yet opportunities to do better by them remain.
When lef to their own devices, forests are thought
to constantly change within the bounds of site-specifc
biomass benchmarks. Teir biotic volume and structure
are largely functions of available resources and microcli-
mate. In other words, forests generally grow according
to how much and what kinds of life a specifc place in
a given time can support. Tese place-based assemblies
typically consist of a complex web of fora, fauna, and
fungi, all of which use, share, and sometimes improve
available water, nutrients, and light. It is here that forests
ofer their lesson, providing structural and functional
signposts that inform thoughtful and productive use.
Farming the Woods x
come. Ultimately, the authors work toward a strategy
wherein the practice of forest farming is positioned
relative to the future of cold temperate forests and
their place within multifunctional and well-planned
landscape management.
When thinking back to the number of farmers who
kept their hands up when asked about forest manage-
ment, it is not altogether surprising that they ofen do
not consider themselves to be active managers. Long
an issue for those concerned with landscape health
and productivity, it can be said that the segregation
of forestry and farming has not only divided land use,
but also people. Realizing the need for an inclusive
approach, the authors of this book correctly emphasize
a variety of opportunities, rather than a single land-
management prescription.
Tat Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel believe people
should be empowered in pursuits of integrated, mul-
tifunctional forest management is clear. As a result,
the book is better positioned to positively impact
forest owners, farmers, policy makers, and general
readers alike. I encourage you to take advantage of
this resource, because at your fngertips is a useful and
inspirational forest farming guide.
John F. Munsell
Blacksburg, VA
July, 2014
possible is exigent by the authors account. Tey
argue there likely is no other way if land-management
systems are to adequately improve lives and sustain
productive environments in the face of such rapid
global change.
Te points and examples ofered by the authors in
drawing lines around the status quo are grounds for
contemplation, but little requires pondering when it
comes to the books practical content. Expansive and
detailed, it ofers those who encounter it a variety of
options for impactful forest farming. All the while
underpinned by personal perspective, the book swirls
with information on applications and opportunities
for crafing an integrated and multifunctional forest
enterprise. From detailed information on mushroom
production to an inspirational celebration of a meal
created wholly from forest products, the collection of
forest farming opportunities, tricks of the trade, and
case studies will take the reader on a tour of what
could, and by many accounts should, play a larger role
in the cultural context of integrated land use.
Te practices and principles of agroforestry and per-
maculture are alive throughout the book. Interestingly,
boundaries between the two ofen are blurred in the
face of more important issues like feeding, treating, and
sheltering growing populations while sustaining envi-
ronments that are able to meet needs for generations to
Introduction
Some of my fondest memories from childhood took
place in the woods. (Steve) When I was fve we moved
to a new neighborhood in New York, a new subdivi-
sion, and for a moment in time we were the last house
on the street. Next door was a wild woodland of haw-
thorn, locust, and other varieties of thorny trees and
shrubs that emerged when the farmer abandoned his
felds. Te other neighborhood boys and I spent endless
days afer school clearing the thorns with sticks wed
fashioned so that we could run through the woodland
with ease without poking our eyes out. We built forts
and hideouts and secret places where we could observe
the neighbors around us without being detected. One
day I got of the bus from school and found our beloved
forest on fre, lit by the builders who were starting to
construct the next lot of homes.
I remember, too, the frst time I visited our local
nature center (which I ended up working at many years
later) and witnessing for the frst time the tapping of
a maple treeand the delicious sugary sap that came
forth. I was blown away by the fact that sugar could
come from a tree: and I was hooked. Tis was just one
of many peak experiences that connected me to the
forests of the place where I grew up. Whether it was
tromping through an amazing grove of sycamore and
lying under the grasp of massive weeping willows at the
south end of Cayuga Lake with a high school girlfriend,
taking hiking and camping trips to the Adirondack
woods with my father, or drying of on a long hemlock
tree that had washed ashore near a favorite swimming
hole, trees litter my memories of place and defne my
experience of being alive.
During my last two years of high school I started
reading and learning about the long list of things
humans have done to damage life systems on Earth,
taking note especially of the track record of damage
to forests. I couldnt believe that the places I loved to
spend time in were actually quite rare and endangered,
Tis book begins, and ends, with our love for the forest.
For our temperate climate, the place we know, the for-
est is the natural ecosystem type that exists, or would
exist if we were to stop mowing, cutting, and plowing
in a given place. Te forest, which is a place where trees
of all shapes, sizes, and characters live, is what covers
land, protects soil, and harvests rainwater. It is the
home for many mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians,
insects, and fungi. It is the story of hundreds to thou-
sands of years of growth, death, and decay. It is also a
place where people have gained sustenance for much of
our time on Planet Earth.
Spending time in the woods leaves many people feel-
ing calmer, happier, and more peaceful. Te Japanese
even have a word for this, Shinrin-yoku, which can be
translated as, taking in the forest atmosphere or forest
bathing.
1
Research has shown that spending time in
the woods is good for health and can be therapeutic.
A landscape dominated by trees is where we authors
like to spend our time. We are fascinated with trees
themselves, as well as the complex communities they
can create. We are constantly awed and amazed as we
work in the woods grafing, pruning, cutting, pollinat-
ing, and eating. We are visited by red-tailed hawks or
surprised by the discovery of a fush of chicken of the
woods mushrooms. Te forest is a place where time
slows down and surprises emerge.
For many in the modern world the forest is a place to
recreate, which means visiting for a time before return-
ing to town or to the places we call home. Yet as we
spend time grafing trees, moving mushroom logs, and
sharing forest farming with students and youth, we
realize that the forest is a home, too. Students in our
forest farming class look forward to the weekly sessions
when we meet in our classroomthe woodsand
learn ideas and skills. For many the chance to wield
a shovel or simply sit in the forest is a welcome break
from lecture halls and library study sessions.
Farming the Woods xiv
doing things they love. Some of them cultivate beneath
stands of old trees, and some plant new ones, leaving a
forest in the footsteps of their farming activities.
Tis book is about many things, but fundamentally
it is about a new way to relate to the forest. It ofers not
only new ways of seeing and valuing forests for both
preserving and enhancing forest health but also the
potential to make an income. However, the tips, tricks,
and techniques found within are no good if readers
dont take time to connect to the forested landscape. It
is our love for the woods that keeps us going above all,
and the reason we wrote this book.
To explore the many facets of forest farming, this
book will take you on a journey through the cool shade
of a hemlock forest, where Steve and Julie Rockcastle
cultivate shiitake mushrooms right alongside wild
mushrooms rotting in tree stumps and the devilish
red ones with white spots that pop up right out of the
ground.
Make a stop at the MacDaniels Nut Grove and
view the many hickory trees that have strange bulges
on their trunks, indicating that they were grafed over
seventy years ago. Climb a ladder to help pollinate
the blood-red fowers of the pawpaw with fne-tipped
paintbrush, bringing pollen from the male parts of a
fower of one tree over to the female part of a fower on
another tree. A bit tiresome, but well worth the trouble
when the plump aromatic fruits come in, about the
same time of year when hickory nuts rain down from
the sky, some with their husk nearly the size of a tennis
ball. You may want to wear one of the shiny yellow
hard hats for protection.
Visit the woods in late February collecting sap from
the sugar trees to make maple syrup. Catch a few drops
on your fnger as it drips out the spile. It barely tastes
sweet at all, being many hours of boiling away from
fnished syrup. As syrup season ends, witness the early
spring sun shining down on the forest foor, warming
the soil and calling up ramps (wild leeks) from dor-
mancy. Dig one out of the ground, and youll fnd that
the plump scallion-like bulb smells like garlic.
Visit Dave Carman, an Appalachian forest farmer,
at his home in West Virginia, where he grows forest
herbs such as spikenard, fairy wand, ginseng, golden-
and that future generations might not be able to enjoy
them. I was not convinced that environmental destruc-
tion was a necessity of progress for a nation. Tese
convictions led me to explore ideas of how humans
could interact more positively with the natural world,
including organic farming, permaculture, and sus-
tainable forestry. I hopped around diferent colleges,
traveled abroad to witness the almost total disappear-
ance of any forests in Scotland, and participated in
anti-logging activism in the West.
When I moved back to my hometown of Ithaca
and decided it was time to wrap up my degree once
and for all, I learned about a unique professor at
Cornell who taught a class in the woods. Te story
was that he had found a lost nut tree planting started
by a previous professor and had revived it with stu-
dents. Here was a truly unique place in the world:
a ninety-year-old nut forest that was born of human
design. I was amazed that such a high-level institute
as Cornell was ofering a class on forest farming,
which was pretty obscure for a university interested
more in large-commodity crops and livestock. I
ended up taking Ken Mudges class, and that began a
collaboration and a friendship and, though we didnt
know it at the time, this book.
We bonded over the concept that forest farming
ofered a unique opportunity to rethink how we farm
in the modern world. It was a concept that many of
Kens colleagues have scofed at over the years, citing
the mantra of any big agricultural school, which is,
Tats cool, but you arent going to make money doing
it. Yet Kens persistence and dedication to forest farm-
ing, and specifcally mushroom cultivation, over many
years proved just the opposite; today more and more
farmers are growing mushrooms on logs each year, and
they are making money doing it. Its just the beginning.
Humanity has a mixed relationship and a compli-
cated history with the woods. Yet when Ken and I
visited forest farmers around the country and met the
people who manage them, we saw a mirror of ourselves
in them. Tere are incredible people already doing this
stuf out there, in many diferent ways. Te common
thread that binds them all is a passion for the woods
and a desire to spend as much time in it as possible,
Introduction xv
nursery, which includes a couple of quaint little stor-
age buildings painted forest green with brown trim;
they remind you of the witchs house in Hansel and
Gretel, but without the candy.
Tese and the other forest farmers profled in
this book ofer a vision for how more people can
livewith and in the forest rather than outside it, a
foreigner who only visits from time to time. Human
civilization is in a time when the decisions we need
to make are unlike those any generation has had to
make before. With increasing inequality, the collapse
of ecosystems around the world, and the uncertain
efects of climate change, there is not a better time to
consider farming the woods.
Steve Gabriel and Ken Mudge, 2014
seal, and many more on a wooded hillside beneath a
high, green canopy of tulip poplar. Although these are
valuable medicinal herbs, hes not so much interested
in harvesting the roots, rhizomes, or other structures
used as medicinals. Instead he harvests and sells seeds
for others to grow the herbs. Over generations enough
rich organic soil has accumulated for Dave to grow
Virginia snakeroot scattered among the fragrant wild
ferns that were there frst. Te small S-shaped seedpods
are reminiscent of Santas curved pipe.
At a Pennsylvania forest nursery Dave Cornman
grows the medicinal herb black cohosh, with its deli-
cate arching spray of fragrant white fowers. Butterfies
scatter as you approach it. He sells it to shade garden-
ers, who think of it as an ornamental. Dave built a
ruggedly beautiful stone house before building the