Mark Shepard’s New Forest Farm, in Viola, Wisconsin, isn’t your average farm. After twenty-one years of an intentional conversion from 106 acres of corn, beans, and overgrazed pasture to a chestnut, hazelnut, and apple mimic of the oak savannah, New Forest Farm presents an alternative to just about every way of thinking about agriculture that you’ll find out there. Mark, the author of Restoration Agriculture, is not just a nuts and fruits guy: he used the cash flow from his low-input vegetable operation to boot strap his longer-term plantings.
In addition to getting into some of the basics of Mark’s approach to creating a permanent agriculture, we dig into his personal history, how he came to his farm in southwest Wisconsin, issues of scale and finance, and how Mark managed his vegetable operation during the startup of his perennial polyculture. We also spend some time talking about how to take some of Mark’s ideas and apply them to a more conventional market farming setup.
I’ve had the good fortune to work with Mark in various capacities for over fifteen years now, and I’ve been to his farm a few times over the years, and I can tell you, it’s a pretty cool place. And Mark’s got some ways of looking at things that will likely challenge at least a few of the ways you’re looking at your farm and the whole farm and food system.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.