Woodland Harvest is 4-acre sustainable agriculture demonstration project based on permaculture design, a holistic approach to food production that follows the principles of natural eco-systems.
Prior to its acquisition by Riveredge, the sloping field had been planted in annual row crops that left the soil exhausted and bare and subject to heavy erosion.
The project seeks to restore the health and fertility of the land while generating valued crops. The permaculture design places an emphasis on woody perennial plants which allow the soil to remain sod-covered to minimize erosion and rebuild organic matter.
Designed and planted by Mark Shepard of Forest Agriculture Enterprises in 2009 and 2010, the site includes tree crops such as hardy Carpathian walnuts, native hazelnut shrubs, and a mixed fruit orchard, in addition to asparagus and raspberries.
Water management elements were developed such as a “pocket pond” to slow the water moving down the natural draw of the sloped field and “swales” or berms to channel the water across the contour of the field. During heavy rains and snow melt, these swales move water to drier areas of the field and further minimize erosion.
Conventional agriculture tends to plant in monocultures due to ease of planting, cultivating, and harvesting. However, monocultures are more susceptible to pests and disease. In addition to the mixture of trees, shrubs, grasses, forbs, and brambles, Woodland Harvest includes examples of intentional polyculture such as interplanted table grapes and walnut trees. We also foster plant-animal interactions through the chickens and turkeys that free-range among the plantings, eating insects and cycling and depositing nutrients through their manure.
Annual Crops, Too
Annual vegetable crops are planted in narrow bands interspersed with grasses and forbs to hold the soil in place. These crops have been served at the Riveredge anniversary celebration and our annual Yule Log supper. Crop rotations and organic fertilizers ensure nutrient-rich healthy plants.
Volunteer and Learn
We are always looking for volunteers interested in permaculture and farming who would like to help and learn as Woodland Harvest grows!
Please call Riveredge at 262-675-6888 or click on Get Involved to learn more. Thank you!