Forest Farming with Steve Gabriel. Growing Crops Within the Canopy of an Existing Forest. (PVP094)

The biggest challenge with forestry and making decisions is that a lot of those consequences of your actions, you’re not even going to see in your lifetime, and that is a really powerful consideration, and it really humbles you really quickly.  You’re making decisions for the next person down the line.” Steve Gabriel

Steve Gabriel Permaculture Voices








Key Takeaways:

  • Forest gardening: looking to the forest for inspiration and ideas on how to design gardens.
  • Forest farming: growing crops within the canopy of an existing forest.
  • Forest crops mentioned in this episode: ginseng, ramps, maple syrups, tree syrups, schisandra berry, paw paw, autumn olive, mushrooms.
  • Maple syrup.  Usually not tapping trees less than 10″ in diameter.  Expect about 10 gallons of sap per year.  And 40 gallons of sap makes about 1 gallon of maple syrup.  Tree sap itself may prove to be a viable product.
  • Value research and value collecting data.  Good research and documentation can help us really understand what will work.
  • Question where your knowledge is coming from and who is saying what about it.
  • Shitake growing estimate.  About $5 in and $40 per log out over 3 or 4 seasons.



  • “The biggest challenge with forestry and making decisions is that a lot of those consequences of your actions, you’re not even going to see in your lifetime, and that is a really powerful consideration, and it really humbles you really quickly.  You’re making decisions for the next person down the line.”
  • “When farmers or homesteaders or gardeners run into problems is when they don’t appreciate the uniqueness of the space that they are in, that micro-climate, and design for that.”
  • “It’s really about matching your species to the right micro-location.”
  • “Whenever a shade tree is planted it might as well be a nut tree of one of the better varieties…”  Lawrence MacDaniels
  • “…appropriate nut trees would contribute substantially to future food supply, erosion control, wildlife reduce, and in the case of black walnut, to a valuable timber resource.” Lawrence MacDaniels


Maple Syrup is Great, But How About Sap?

by Steve Gabriel

“Living in the Finger Lakes, the change from winter to spring is often quite dramatic and enthusiastically welcomed by residents who are sometimes a bit weary after months of bundling up, scraping car windows, and shoveling sidewalks. While the signs of the seasonal change can come in many forms, perhaps there is no better pulse than the process of maple sugaring, which quite literally ebbs and flows based on the changing of temperate. Warm days above freezing coupled with colder nights below 32 degrees F mean the sap is flowing – and spring is coming.

Tapping trees is a project that is relatively easy and inexpensive to get into. All one needs is a few sugar maple trees, a drill, a spout, and some sort of collection vessel. On a good year, it can be expected that a tree 12″ in diameter or more will produce somewhere in the range of 8 – 10 gallons of sap. At a ratio of 40 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup, this means that 5 or 6 trees could theoretically yield about a gallon of syrup, per season. But in many cases the amount of time required to boil sap into syrup makes this process impractical for the homeowner, on a small scale. Thus many people do not tap trees, choosing instead to support a local sugarmaker for syrup.”

Read the full article on Sustainable Thompkins


Bottled maple water now available in U.S. stores

by Lori Grisham

“People have been drinking sap around the world for centuries, but maple water is now making an appearance in more U.S. stores.

So, what does it taste like?

“Water, but there’s something different. It’s got a little bit of sweetness,” Michael Farrell, a maple expert at Cornell University told USA TODAY network.

Maple water, or maple sap, is the liquid collected from maple trees used to make syrup.

Contrary to popular belief, sap is not sticky or super sweet. It has the same consistency as water, Farrell said. To make syrup, people boil the sap. It takes about 40 gallons to make 1 gallon of syrup, he said.

“It’s always been a regional, seasonal thing. It’s exciting that companies are getting into bottling it year around,” Farrell said. A handful of companies have been popping up in the U.S. and in Canada.

One of those companies is Vertical Water, a New York company Farrell has been advising for the last few years.”

Read the full article in USA Today


Birch For Breakfast? Meet Maple Syrup’s Long-Lost Cousins

by Nevin Martell

“Americans have a longstanding love affair with maple syrup. According to the USDA, production of the sticky stuff in the United States totaled 3.25 million gallons this year. However, it isn’t the only tree syrup that’s available to drizzle on your short stack or sweeten your latte.

The Aunt Jemima alternatives vary, depending on the types of trees there are in a region. There’s Kahiltna birch syrup made in Alaska, blue spruce pine syrup from Utah and Georgian black walnut syrup.

“I’ve made syrup from yellow birch, white birch and butternut trees,” says Sam Thayer, a professional forager and author of The Forager’s Harvest, who lives in, fittingly, Birchwood, Wis.”

Read the full article on NPR


22 Trees That Can Be Tapped For Sap And Syrup

“As winter wanes and spring approaches, wild foodists all across North America tap into the time-honored tradition of sugar production – mainly, the transformation of maple tree sap into maple syrup and sugar.  This process, passed on from the Native Americans to the early settlers, is still quite popular today, and is responsible for one of the few wild foods that can be purchased commercially in most supermarkets.

Most people associate syrup with the maple tree, and although much of today’s syrup does originate from the sugar maple, all species of maple can be tapped.  Even better, many other trees from other genera can be tapped to extract sap, which ultimately can be turned into delicious syrup.

In this post, I won’t be discussing the methods involved in tapping for sugar production.  If you are unfamiliar with the process, there are a variety of great websites, videos, and books to guide you.  Rather, I would like to provide a list of various trees (maples, birches, walnuts, etc.) that you can tap successfully to yield wonderful, sugary products.”

Read the full article on Wild Foodism

Dr. Ken Mudge, Forest Farming

What is Forest Farming?


 Where does ginseng grow?

Planting ginseng in forests.

Agroforestry Practices, Forest Farming




Steve will be speaking at PV2. Learn more about Steve Gabriel.


Steve Gabriel Permaculture Voices




Connect with Steve Gabriel:

Farming the Woods

Farming the Woods on Facebook

You can contact Steve via farmingthewoods [AT] gmail [DOT] com.



Order Farming the Woods, signed by Steve and Ken


Support Permaculture Voices

You can new support Permaculture Voices through a one time or reoccurring donation. You can make that donation at

Question, Comments, or Feedback?

Let’s here it – info at permaculturevoices dot com, Facebook, or though the contact form HERE.




You can also listen to this episode (and all of the other episodes) through iTunes and other podcast feed readers. Instructions on how to do that here:


Permaculture Voices Thanks You

Thanks for listening and for supporting Permaculture Voices!

Did you get some value out of this post? If so, then please take a second to support Diego on Patreon!

Comments 3

  1. This is exactly what we are doing here in Colbert, WA. What an unbelievable opportunity to discover how to grow cooperatively within a forest and the amazing amount of resource available to us. Thank you.

    1. Post

      For sure Thom. It is an interesting concept that doesn’t get talked about much. Suddenly a lot of land becomes ‘farmland’. 🙂

  2. On maple syrup – not sure if or how it might be useful on a commercial scale, but on a homestead scale, allowing the sap to freeze overnight will allow you to remove some of the water through the ice, without extra energy. Have not and have not seen any measurements on how much the sugar can be concentrated this way, but it is nearly effortless and did I mention it requires no energy – if you just leave the sap outside overnight. (‘Sugaring’ season is when the days start to warm up, but the nighttime temperatures are still below freezing.) Every little bit helps…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *