Steve Gabriel, author of Farming the Woods (with Ken Mudge), is an ecologist, educator, and a forest farmer who has lived most of his life in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His personal mission is to reconnect people of all ages with the natural world and to provide the tools for good management of forests and other landscapes. He currently splits his time between working for the Cornell Small Farms Program, and developing the farm he runs with wife Elizabeth, Wellspring Forest Farm, which produces shiitake mushrooms, duck eggs, pastured lamb, nursery trees, and maple syrup.
Books By Steve Gabriel
Farming the Woods
An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests
In the eyes of many people, the practices of forestry and farming are mutually exclusive, because in the modern world, agriculture involves open fields, straight rows, and machinery to grow crops, while forests are primarily reserved for timber and firewood harvesting. Farming the Woods invites a remarkably different perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicinal, and other non-timber products. While this concept of “forest farming” may seem like an obscure practice, history indicates that much of humanity lived and sustained itself from tree-based systems in the past; only recently have people traded the forest for the field. The good news is that this is not an either-or scenario; forest farms can be most productive in places where the plow is not: on steep slopes, and in shallow soils. It is an invaluable practice to integrate into any farm or homestead, especially as the need for unique value-added products and supplemental income becomes more and more important for farmers.
Many already know that daily indulgences we take for granted such as coffee, chocolate, and many tropical fruits, all originate in forest ecosystems. But few know that such abundance is also available in the cool temperate forests of North America. Farming the Woods is the first in-depth guide for farmers and gardeners who have access to an established woodland and are looking for productive ways to manage it. Authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel describe this process as “productive conservation,” guided by the processes and relationships found in natural forest ecosystems.
Farming the Woods covers in detail how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value non-timber forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, ramps (wild leeks), maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamental ferns, and more. Comprehensive information is also offered on historical perspectives of forest farming; mimicking the forest in a changing climate; cultivation of medicinal crops; creating a forest nursery; harvesting and utilizing wood products; the role of animals in the forest farm; and how to design and manage your forest farm once it’s set up. This book is a must-read for farmers and gardeners interested in incorporating aspects of agroforestry, permaculture, forest gardening, and sustainable woodlot management into the concept of a whole-farm organism.
A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm Ecosystem
A system for regenerating land, storing carbon, and creating climate resilience
The concept of silvopasture challenges our notions of both modern agriculture and land use. For centuries, European settlers of North America have engaged in practices that separate the field from the forest, and even the food from the animal. Silvopasture systems integrate trees, animals, and forages in a whole-system approach that offers a number of benefits to the farmer and the environment. Such a system not only offers the promise of ecological regeneration of the land, but also an economical livelihood and even the ability to farm extensively while buffering the effects of a changing climate: increased rainfall, longer droughts, and more intense storm events.
Silvopasture, however, involves more than just allowing animals into the woodlot. It is intentional, steeped in careful observation skills and flexible to the dynamics of such a complex ecology. It requires a farmer who understands grassland ecology, forestry, and animal husbandry. The farmer needn’t be an expert in all of these disciplines, but familiar enough with them to make decisions on a wide variety of time scales. A silvopasture system will inevitably look different from year to year, and careful design coupled with creativity and visioning for the future are all part of the equation.
In this book, farmer Steve Gabriel offers examples of diverse current systems that include:
- A black locust plantation for fence posts coupled with summer grazing pastures for cattle in central New York;
- Oxen and pigs used to clear forested land in New Hampshire to create space for new market gardens and orchards;
- Turkeys used for controlling pests and fertilization on a cider orchard and asparagus farm in New York; and
- Sheep that graze the understory of hybrid chestnut and hickory trees at a nut nursery in Minnesota.
All of these examples share common goals, components, and philosophies. The systems may take several years to establish, but the long-term benefits include healthier animals and soils, greater yields, and the capacity to sequester atmospheric carbon better than forests or grasslands alone.
For all these reasons and more, Silvopasture offers farmers an innovative and ecological alternative to conventional grazing practice.