The Future of Agriculture – Changing the Concept with Mark Shepard. (PVP039)

“You are not doing anything until you get that biology in the ground.”Mark Shepard

 








Mark Shepard of Forest Agriculture Enterprises joins me to talk about the future of agriculture. 

Mark has a pretty clear view on how he thinks the future of agriculture  could be.. restoration agriculture style farms dotting the landscape with animals roaming through grasslands dappled with trees… a perennial polyculture system that builds soil instead of destroying it, a system that sequesters carbon instead of volatilizing it, a system that utilizes all of the water that falls on a piece of land, a system restores the land… and importantly a system provides nutrient dense food on scale – bulk calories and makes money doing it allowing a farmer to earn a decent living in the process.  These systems could restore the land and rural America.  I think it is totally possible, and when you hear Mark speak I think you will feel the same way.  This is the future of agriculture. 

This is probably one of those episodes that you will need to listen to a few times to get every little juicy nugget out of it.  Whether you want to farm broadacre or not, this episode is busting at the seems with knowledge and wisdom.

“Change the concept and the world is a different place.”

For example, people often hear that you have to plant 1000 apple seeds to get just 1 good variety. The odds are too low, it is an easy excuse, so no one does anything and doesn’t plant any seeds. This results is no new varieties being discovered including varieties that could be genetically adapted to local soil, pest, disease, and environmental conditions. This is an impediment to future progress.

What if instead we change the concept and look at it as ‘how many seeds do we have to plant to get 5 good varieties.’ Maybe it is 50, maybe it is 5000, we don’t know, but at least there is potential promise there. The process isn’t being stifled by the negative concept. Suddenly the task seems less daunting and more achievable.

Consider changing the concept to focus on what is doable instead of looking at something and immediately putting the odds against you. It is all about focusing on how we CAN get stuff done, and not reasons the reason why we CAN’T do something. That is how we actually make progress.

 

 

 

Mark-Bio

 

MarkCover

Key Takeaways

  • Do your best to not spend any money.  Minimize your input costs.  What can you not do and still get decent yields.  
  • Restoration begins when plants are growing.  Gotta get something in the ground right away.
  • Beware of the danger of universally applying a technique without taking actual site measurements – applying an inappropriate, appropriate solution.  Base what you do on what is actually happening on the site itself.
  • Plants will live with all kinds of nutrient deficiencies, but they will not live without water.  Get your water system in place.
  • Consider the total dollar yields per acre, not per crop.  Base numbers off of that.
  • You only have enough time in the day to do so many things.  You are either going to be the grower of the product or the value adder for the product. 

Quotables

  • “It is OK to get a lower yield if your costs are lower.  It is OK to get  a lower yield if you are getting extra yields you didn’t get before.”
  • “Let’s work with what we have in order to design what we know we can create.  And let’s use current tools to do it.”
  • “Be very observant.  Be a skilled observer, but don’t wast time sitting around observing because you want to make things perfect when you put plants in the ground.  This is a process, we need to start something, take feedback, adjust, modify, and do it again.” 
  • “You are not doing anything until you get that biology in the ground.”

Fast Tracking the System

  • Actually put plants in the ground.
  • You are not doing anything until you get that biology in the ground.
  • The growing system will teach you.  It forces you to learn. 

 

Genetic Experimentation and Planting Trees from Seed

  • Don’t baby plants.  You want plants adapted to your landscape, in that spot, in that soil, as it is.
  • Do the plantings where you want the trees.  Forget nursery beds.
  • Do your own experimental plantings to breed out the genetics that are appropriate for your situation.
  • Try to overcome plant issues and struggles with mass plantings.
  • You need pests and disease on site to see if plants are resistant.  If you spray everything and keep them away you won’t know if you have resistant plants.

 

Permaculture Real Estate Developers

  • Upgrade the actual condition of the site.
  • Add at least two on site businesses.  Add some off site businesses.
  • Build a house(s) on the property.
  • All this leads to building real equity on the site.  Then use that equity to do the process over and over again.
  • “Permaculture real estate flippers that don’t sell.”

 

“Change the concept and the world is a different place.”Mark Shepard

For example, people often hear that you have to plant 1000 apple seeds to get just 1 good variety. The odds are too low, it is an easy excuse, so no one does anything and doesn’t plant any seeds. This results is no new varieties being discovered including varieties that could be genetically adapted to local soil, pest, disease, and environmental conditions. This is an impediment to future progress.

What if instead we change the concept and look at it as ‘how many seeds do we have to plant to get 5 good varieties.’ Maybe it is 50, maybe it is 5000, we don’t know, but at least there is potential promise there. The process isn’t being stifled by the negative concept. Suddenly the task seems less daunting and more achievable.

Consider changing the concept to focus on what is doable instead of looking at something and immediately putting the odds against you. It is all about focusing on how we CAN get stuff done, and not reasons the reason why we CAN’T do something. That is how we actually make progress.

Mark now has a commercial cider business using apples that were grown from seed, that you aren’t supposed to be able to save.

 

Mark1

 

The Three Sisters Garden

“In this section you will learn how to plant the Three Sisters according to Iroquois custom. You have already learned many new things about corn and her two sisters and about Iroquois gardening. Now you can try this planting system yourself and recreate an ancient (and modern) practice.” via Cornell

Image: Cornell

Image: Cornell

Source link from Cornell HERE.

 

 

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Comments 7

  1. Awesome stuff. Can’t get enough from Mark as he is a fountain of knowledge. The farm my wife and I are starting is going to be a Mark Shepard style one, just a bit smaller. Get his book. Read it, then read it again.

  2. Wow, I heard about Mark from Jack Spirko’s review of PV1. I was not disappointed. So much information in this podcast that I will have to listen to it again. I am hoping that I can attend an info session that Mark is going to be at in late May. BTW I really like your music at the beginning and end of your podcasts.

  3. Wow, that was straight up awesome. What an amazing wealth of information Mark is. And the practical stuff about a real estate investment business with multiple offshoots was brilliant. Like you said, I need to listen to that at least once again.

    Thanks for doing what you do, Diego. I’m off to iTunes to give you five stars before I forget. Cheers.

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  4. Define “decent living” in a podcast by putting some numbers to it or maybe a salary range would be better, I hear Joel Salatin say white collar salary but that can be so misleading. My first white collar job I made $36K Gross, which was below the national average. How much you make is half of it the other half is how much you keep.

    Don’t ask about the average cost of something, instead ask what was the cheapest and the most expensive? For instance what was the smallest property that he designed and what did it cost to implement, then what was the largest property and its cost?

    How did he finance his current operation when he first started?

    His book is next on my list to buy. Out of all the podcasts I listen to I like your music the best, I find it upbeat and hopeful for the future.

  5. Slowly working my way through these podcasts Diego! Great for a long commute to my day job 🙂 This one is My Absolute Favorite so far! the way Mark says these things, his energy, it’s just contagious. I’ve been reading /studying permaculture for decades, have only applied tiny portions but it’s the happiest life-concept-belief-system I’ve ever found. Your podcasts have introduced me to new names, new ideas, I’m literally blown away with each one. Cringed through the story about the misplaced hugelculture bed… I live in southern AZ where summer monsoon storms turn roads into raging rivers capable of floating cars within minutes. Unskilled water diversion is nothing to mess around with.

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