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Integrating Livestock in the Food Forest

Cattle grazing under alder in silvopasture system
at Las Canadas, Huatusco, Mexico

Integrating livestock seems to be the best way to have a larger-scale food forest (anything over one hectare or a couple of acres). If done properly, livestock integration can greatly reduce labor and fossil fuel needs. It can create the conditions for happy and healthy livestock. Done poorly, it can ruin soils and destroy crops. Here are a few things that I’ve been learning as I travel around and view this aspect of permaculture in action (plus some important tidbits from reading).

In this article I’ll review some of the more common kinds of livestock. I’m certainly interested in other animal species and would love to hear from people with experience raising things like meat iguanas, nutria, grasscutter rats and other interesting creatures. Note that differences between breeds and in the manner of raising and handling livestock can cause substantial variation as well.

There are several key functions that livestock can perform in food forests. These include site preparation, tillage, mowing and grazing, insect control, weeding, and picking up drops.

Livestock integration begins with site preparation. I have had excellent luck using portable fencing to move around goats for the purpose of clearing brush. They very effectively strip any leaves they can reach.

Goats clearing brush at Nuestras Raices Farm, Holyoke USA

Pigs tilling soil at Nuestras Raices farm

After clearing brush and tilling, many kinds of livestock can be used instead of mowing the understory of a large scale food forest. It drives me a little crazy sometimes to see people mowing their orchards when sheep or chickens or some other species would be so happy to do it for them. Badgersett Research Corporation does this very effectively in the understory of their chestnut and hazel woody agriculture demonstrations.

Geese have a special role in managing the understory of a food forest. To my knowledge they are the only species of livestock which eat only grasses and clovers, while leaving other crops alone. My friends at Las Canadas in Huatusco, Mexico, have used geese to get the incredibly weedy star grass under control beneath their woody plants. They began at ten geese per acre and after a year were able to reduce that to two per acre just to control the resprouting grass roots. Now they have planted a diverse understory of gingers, sweet potatoes, taro, and much more — all of which would’ve been impossible in the presence of star grass. The geese wander through these crops uninterested, hunting for a few shoots of grass for a tasty treat. The breed they are using is called African weeder although many other breeds are useful in this regard as well.

African weeder geese doing their job at Las Canadas

Several kinds of poultry can play an important role in eating pest insects. Chickens do a fine job hunting for insects, particularly the smaller and smarter bantam breeds. Ducks do a fine job as well, and are especially valuable of course for their ability to eat slugs and snails. Turkeys are said to be good insect hunters as well, at least the heritage breeds. Probably the finest insect hunter is the guinea hen. Adult guineas eat 90% insects and have the added bonus of not scratching, making them much superior to chickens in this regard.

These bantams are being bred for orchard pest control

Another kind of pest control is picking up dropped fruits and nuts. Many diseases and insect pests overwinter or otherwise pass a part of their life cycle in these dropped fruits, or in the soil beneath them as they decompose. By running hogs, chickens, or turkeys at the right time you can break that link in the life cycle of the past and give your livestock a tasty protein bonus at the same time.

Unfortunately livestock integration is not without its difficulties. Many livestock will damage young trees, or scratch or dig in the understory. Few breeds of livestock are compatible with the fully diverse herbaceous understory.

Most larger species of livestock can damage young trees, whether by deliberately eating them or simply trampling them. If livestock are to be used during the establishment phase you’ll probably want tree tubes or some kind of fencing. Chickens, hogs, and to a lesser extent turkeys, can cause serious damage in the understory by digging or scratching. This can mess up your mulch, kill understory crops, or otherwise limit your productivity. I’ve read some reports of livestock damaging irrigation equipment as well.

Tree tube with establishing hybrid chestnut

Almost all livestock species are compatible with a food forest understory if that takes the form of rotating them through pasture. Pasture could include comfrey, water celery, and a few other grazing- and trampling-tolerant crops, but not many species fall into this category. If you’d like a more diverse and productive understory on at least a smaller portion of a food forest (and don’t we all?), stick to geese, ducks, and guinea hens. The geese can control grassy weeds with minimal impact besides a bit of trampling on adjoining crops, while guineas will pick through the understory for insects while partaking in very little plant food. Ducks and muscovies are similar to guineas but eat a bit more leaves, but at least they don’t scratch.

Certainly using insects like honeybees, Maya stingless bees, or orchard mason bees to improve pollination is also an excellent idea. More broadly, you could consider livestock to be integrated with a food forest in the case of cut-and-carry operations that bring fodder to a pen and return manure to the orchard.

These are the broad categories of functions and challenges for livestock in food forests that I’ve observed thus far. Please share your experiences and observations.

Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. He is an appointed lecturer at Yale University, a Senior Biosequestration Fellow with Project Drawdown, and an international trainer. Eric presents in English, Spanish, and botanical Latin throughout the Americas and beyond. He has studied useful perennial plants and their roles in agroforestry systems for over two decades. Eric has owned a seed company, managed an urban farm that leased parcels to Hispanic and refugee growers, and provided planning and business trainings to farmers. He is the author of The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agricultural Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security released in February 2016.


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  2. Thanks Eric, for a great article. You shine, even outside of your place of utter brilliance as a “plant-head”.
    We are getting settled in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, on our one-acre “Next Generation PC model” and these questions are so relevant.In an area designated for Food Forest, we have planted wide variety of subtropical fruits, nuts, and nitrogen-fixers. We’re in the first round of chop/drop of the current understory (a diversity of grasses/bushes/herbs), . We’ve had local plant experts come to help us identify what to protect. Now, to fill in multi-story cropping, starting with N-fixers. I’ve been thinking that adding animals could really help us accelerate successions. Your image of a diverse understory at Las Canadas in Mexico, starring ginger, sweet potatoes and taro is enviable.
    Helping us weed out the scratchers and stompers has really helped me get more clear on our goals. Guinea hens, ducks and geese…of course. Now, any suggestions on details for electric fencing?
    I haven’t seen any commercial products on these lines. What do we need to know to improvise?
    I’ll miss you at WoodBine next year. Zia

  3. Hi Eric. Good article. I haven’t quite got my head around how to free range my animals here without supervision because of the prevalence of predator species.

    However, a lot of the native animals here perform many of the functions that you refer to in your article. Wombats perform the same function as geese in that they graze the herbage and spread manure. To a lesser extent they also dig randomly about the place (although I’m sure it is not random to them!). Kangaroos also perform this grazing function and mostly keep the herbage amongst the fruit trees under control. Wallabies on the other hand are like goats in that they will eat most of the herbage, but they will also happily prune the lower branches of the fruit trees and will even rip the tops right off the younger fruit trees if they’re not caged. The echidna’s scratch and dig for worms, ants and other insects and will even break open decaying logs to get at the insects living inside. The local skinks (a kind of gecko) live amongst the rocks in the herb gardens happily sunning themselves, whilst also munching away on any insects they can catch. At night the tree frogs hop amongst the LED lighting which attracts moths and spiders, whilst during the day they hide amongst the mints.

    With the birds, the wedge tail eagles are the lords of the air here and they make me a bit worried about not only the chickens, but also the dogs. During the night, the boobook owl hunts for mice and antechinus whilst the bats are hunting for the bogong moths. Back to the daytime though, the rosellas eat the fallen fruit, whilst the magpies and kookaburras who are both carnivores scratch around looking for worms and grubs. Don’t underestimate the amount of fertiliser received from native birds!

    As the shrub layer slowly increases, blue wrens and red breasted robins are slowly appearing and they bounce through the vegie and berry beds eating insects which would otherwise be eating the vegies and berries!

    Even my dogs play a part by hunting foxes and their cubs, feral cats, rabbits and mice.

    Since the drought has begun, the farm here is becoming a bit of a refuge so I’m leaving separate water systems out for the insects, birds and animals. Using native animals from the surrounding forest does mean that I have reduced yields from the system, but at the same time if there is a systemic shock (like the drought) I don’t have to provide feed for them either – just water.

    Hope you enjoyed the description of a completely different animal system operating within a food forest.


    1. Totally well said, Chris. That’s really Deep Ecology and 100 percent thank you for saying it.

  4. An excellent resource for temperate climate production ag food forestry is a new book by Mark Shepard, ” Restoration Agriculture.”

  5. Great article, Eric.
    I am thinking of planting European alder (Alnus glutinosa) into a half acre goat pasture at a low density (100/ha i.e. 20 trees in that field) using 6ft. tree tubes. The aim is N-fixation, fallen leaves as additional fodder, and once the trees burst their tubes the goats will certainly debark and kill them but 5ft stumps could be left as fence posts for some years for internal divisions (rotational grazing) and the rest would be fuelwood for us. Alder grows incredibly fast here (W. Ireland) adding up to an inch in diameter per year. However, I’m still not entirely convinced that 6ft tubes, apparently the tallest on the market, are sufficient since goats stand on their hind legs to get at tasty morsels. I would love to know if anyone has experience with 6ft tubes (1.80m) and goats.

  6. Eric,

    Some of the photos have Nuestras Raíces credits. How can you integrate livestock in Holyoke when you have a winter season where trees are bare and forage is scarce unless you import it or put land under cultivation to store forage?

    It seems to me that you can’t do this where you do not have weather that permits all year grazing.

    Perhaps the current food forest model needs to be adapted to handle cold climates. I do not consider Sepp Holzer to be an example of cold culture permaculture. His butchering of Nature in order to demonstrate that he can grow citrus at altitude is not working with nature but rather overpowering it. If he wanted Vitamin C, he should have grown sea buckthorn and gotten nitrogen as well.

  7. @DeepGreenGreenie,
    Integration does not necessarily mean year-round and full spatial integration – stock can also be rotated and/or housed for part of the year. For example, we planted a lot of willow around our property for wind-shelter and do both “cut&carry” and “chop&drop over the fence” for our goats, mostly toward the end of the grazing season as we ease into the hay-feeding season. What they leave behind gets shredded for mulch or used as kindling/fuelwood. Willow bark, leaves and twigs are healthy for the goats and save us hay.
    We also keep chickens in woody areas underplanted with crabapple, blackcurrant and the like. In the summer they pick the low-hanging fruit and we get the (well-fertilized) rest and in the long run we get the timber too. Even though the “woodland” meets only a tiny part of their feed needs this integration is beneficial at many levels.

  8. @Ute

    Though I’m being critical here, I’m being constructively critical. As far as I can tell, there has been little work done on the problems of food forests in a cold climate. It’s a truly challenging problem. In the tropics, you have year round yield from a food forest. How do you obtain year round yield in cold climates? You need to store food. But most food forest “crops” don’t lend themselves to storage. The cold climate crops that lend themselves to storage are mostly annuals – root crops, grains, squash, beans, corn. But annuals aren’t generally accepted in permaculture design. The challenge then is to find ways to integrate these annuals in ways that are more permaculture/related techniques and less conventional. Eric lives in a cold climate. Hopefully, he will pop back in to comment on this issue.

    When you talk about hay-feeding season, I assume that you live in a region where you have provide winter feed. Where are you getting your hay from? How much do you need each winter? How many animals are you feeding?

  9. @DeepGreenGreenie
    I’m sorry I forgot to say I’m in the West of Ireland. I am in complete agreement with you on the food forest idea needing some major tweaking for cold climate production and recently outlined some of my thoughts in the forum section ( and It’d be great if you could join in the discussions there.

    In a climate like ours I think the heavy emphasis on perennials is a tad misplaced unless you turn almost exclusively to livestock production based on grasses and forbs plus shrub and tree fodder (e.g. coppiced/pollarded willow, ash, hazel). Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust in Britain has done fantastic work on temperate oceanic climate agroforestry/food forests. However, as close as he is to us, he is based in the very south of Britain in one of the sunniest areas of the country and allegedly a good few people have left his place, while in awe, asking “But where is my dinner in this?” And tons of the stuff he can grow there does not grow out here (walnuts, sweet chestnut, grapes, cherries etc.) except in very favoured micro-climates such as walled gardens. So I’m not going to give up annual gardening any time soon, recycling woody biomass (ramial woodchips), dung and bedding into crop production. No-dig potatoes mulched with goat bedding work very well for us. Legumes and root crops work well too, including mangels as a supplement for goats and chickens, though last year it rained so much all year that broadbeans, onions and garlic just rotted in the ground. Unfortunately, it is too cold and wet here for corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers and the likes outdoors. Oats and rye should be possible but we don’t have the land base to grow sufficient quantities. Light levels here are so low that only truly shade-loving perennials will thrive under a canopy of fruit trees, such as currants, gooseberries, mahonia, Lonicera, roots like horseradish, possibly wasabi in/near water (will try wasabi this year). Herbs do ok on the edges. Mushroom logs are another possibility, as long as ducks or chickens keep the slug population down. And bees of course: fruit blossom, willow, hazel, alder, sycamore, horse chestnut, Viburnum, Rhamnus, Crataegus, brambles and others are all good for bee pollen, nectar, propolis and the trees can be used to shelter hives and provide flying corridors in windy landscapes.

    You ask about the hay-feeding season: We feed hay from about November to April inclusive. We don’t have sufficient land to cut our own so we need to buy it in – about 80-100 square bales per winter (a square bale weighs about 12kg) depending on the weather and number of animals fed, a big expense at 3.50-4.50 Euro/bale, though it is more than made up for in milk, cheese and meat in the summer and autumn. Any day in the autumn that I do not need to feed hay because I can lop the “third dimension biomass” willow, alder, hazel, oak, Cornus and other trees/shrubs represents a saving (and the goats like it much better than hay anyway). They also milk very well on willow browse, with Salix sachalinensis ‘Sekka’ being a favourite. And the trees/shrubs double up as shelterbelts, bee food, ornamentals (wreaths etc.), fuelwood.
    Currently we have one 15 year old pensioner goat, 4 does in kid and a 7 month old kid which is about 2 adults too many for the amount of grazing land we have (looking to sell…).

    Where are you based?

  10. @ DeepGreenGenie,
    That is generally a problem expressed by those who live in the tropics or those who haven’t looked around beyond certain forums. The greatest description of the food forest concept comes from cold temperate climates (Jacke and Toensmeier). Check out one of the oldest permaculture inspired food forests in the world at (that would be 7,200 ft. elevation in the rocky mountains of Colorado, USA). Martin Crawford, Mark Shephard, Bullock Brothers, Mary Zemach, I mean the list goes on and on. So how do they get year round food from them? Nuts of all stripes keep for years. Apples and pears keep for months. Chicken’s freeze very well, or can be slaughtered anytime of year, same goes for any other animal integrated. Plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, dehydrate beautifully. Root crops like groundnut, yacon, sunchoke, perennial onions, etc. can be dug year round with mulch cover. If that isn’t enough, you can have a sub to fully tropical greenhouse yielding year round. At CRMPI they harvest bananas, mangos, papaya, fig, pomegranate, jujube, passionfruit, cherimoya, etc. at various times throughout the year. Oh, and annuals too. I have yet to encounter a tried and true permie who has abandoned all forms of annuals. I know I am unwilling to give up tomatoes and many others. It is how we treat them that matters. The difference largely being one of agriculture and horticulture. Hope that helps.

  11. Your comment came through just as I was about to say similar Jason. That being that, like where I live (cold temperate), there are many things that either store well (in cold-pantries or basements/root cellars, both of which are common here – or at least were). Some are obvious, like walnuts and others like apples, pears, plums and apricots usually store well in cool temps, and for the many fruits and berries that don’t last so long, that’s where preserving comes in.

    Like you, I could also not give up tomatoes, and several other annuals (like potatoes, which also store very well), but I almost regard tomatoes as a perennial, in the sense that they self-seed so well (particularly cherry tomatoes, which also ripen more reliably in short-season areas like this). With enough trees on the section to donate biomass, as well as appropriate green manures, there’s no reason we can’t replenish what a few annuals take from the soil.

  12. @Jason & Craig,
    I think what DeepGreenGenie *may* be getting at (I don’t know where he/she lives) and I know I *am*: What do you live off if you can *not* in your climate grow nuts of any description, peaches, apricots, cherries, perennial rootcrops (apart from sunchokes), where there is so little f*n sun that even a tropical greenhouse needs heating (there was one an hours drive from here, a large lean-to to a 6m high, very thick stonewall where they grew bananas – it required a forest and heater work crew to keep a woodstove on the backside of the wall going which blew warm air into the greenhouse). With 3000 sunshine hours and an average c. 4.1kWh/m2/day CRMPI gets a hell of a lot more insolation to warm its thermal mass (versus c. 1300 sunshine hours and 2.4kWH/m2/day here. No sun = no heat).
    Think Haida Gwaii (BC, Canada), Kamchatka (Russia), Chiloé Island (Chile; Valdivian temperate rainforest region on the western side), southern Aleutian islands, Scottish highlands and islands. I guess there is a reason why economies in such regions have always strongly relied on hunting, fishing and livestock such as sheep and cattle as well as on potatoes – Chiloé Island being a point in case. Which brings us back to… maybe not so much food forestry but definitely livestock and silvopastoral systems.

  13. @Ute

    Thank you for sharing, your hay situation.

    You say “But where is my dinner in this?”. Kay Baxter goes further. She says “Where are my calories?” If you ignore the Weston Price commentary, there’s not a single response to the issue she raises. At least one permie has come face to face with the problem –

    We all know about the current food forest concept so I won’t repeat it. I think the challenge is to design a cold weather food forest that includes annual vegetables and that is nutritionally oriented, ie, create a Permaculture Food Pyramid. This is no small task but absolutely critical to permaculture having well founded growth in the cold areas of the world.

    Where am I based? Central Canada, Zone 4

  14. DeepGreenGreenie, you have me thinking. What I have done here in Central Victoria Australia, in a cool temperate climate to get my food forest started is observe how the wild system works here and then tweak with it, based on what grows in other similar places, the climate analogues.
    You might not like Holzers work but I am sure there is plenty to learn and you might be happy just to adapt a variation. Copy the parts you like and bypass the bits you dont.
    I think Holzer goes as far as he does with niches and micro climates because his system is now quite advanced. He has just built and built on the system over time, the more his system matures, the more niches appear. I am sure he has got to grow more than he ever dreamed of in the beginning, and who could resist the possibilities once they appear.
    It might be nice if you went by your real name and had a profile on the WPN, you could put out the call for information over there, I bet lots of people would love to help and have some input into your system.
    Carolyn Payne
    Mudlark Permaculture

  15. We’ve been thinking about getting a laying flock and having them range during the day, but house them at night so they all lay in one place (hopefully) You’ve confirmed for me that this would be a good idea. Maybe we’ll add in a few Guineas as well!

  16. DeepGreenGreenie. It occurs to me that you may well be fixating on plants and foods that are inappropriate to your environment. As a suggestion, do some research on traditional diets and plants in your area. I suspect the problem may not be as complex as you state it. However, the answer just may not be to your liking.

    Trees in food forests in cool temperate climates (through to much colder environments) only produce at certain times of the year. You can extend the production period of a food forest by planting a diversity of trees and sub-species but eventually they all stop producing over winter. This is not dissimilar to annuals. Naturalised annuals tend to follow a similar pattern and as such look after themselves.

    A food forest is a really good idea, it just works differently in differing environments. In addition to this situation, serious diversity is a real hedge against changeable climactic conditions (it is a drought year in the SE corner of Down Under). A mono culture is a serious risk. I was speaking with a local blueberry farmer the other day who’s crop was down by 2/3rds this year because of the drought and heatwave, but more diverse plantings could have mitigated this risk.

    You should seriously consider preserving techniques whilst you are at it. If you are in colder conditions than where I am, then these preserving techniques are crucial to winter survival.

    Food forests are awesome, just don’t expect locally grown bananas in Greenland as it is unrealistic!


  17. Hi everyone, I’m back from teaching at Financial Permaculture and ready to plug in.

    1) I should have clarified in the table that only certain breeds of geese eat only grasses and clovers, others are more like regular grazers. Someday we need a chart like that with all the breeds and even more species.
    2) Yes, there are climates where there are not currently perennial staple crops ready for prime time (as I discussed a bunch in my article on the same topic a year or so back). Until such time as perennial grain breeding gives us viable long-lived staples, livestock are an extremely important food source in such climates. Also, again, nothing wrong with growing annuals in the right context. I grow and eat lots of them and hope to always do so.
    3) Thanks everybody for your lively comments! Please write up your experiences with this topic and share them as articles on this sire.


  18. Awesome article. Thanks, Eric.

    I’ve heard from numerous people that geese tend to be “mean.” Is there a way to help them be more sociable or any recommended breeds to help mitigate that tendency?

  19. @ Eric Toensmeier

    Yes, perennial grains are not ready for commercial prime time but they may be ready for the rest of us. The Land Institute is struggling with yield not perenniality. For perennial grains to replace annual grains commercially, they must have the same yield as annual grains in order to be accepted. Economically, yields could be lower since inputs are lower. However, yield must almost satisfy demand. There are sources of perennial wheat, rye, and buckwheat currently available although they take a bit of digging to find them since Tim Peters shut down his website.

    If you had to choose between annual vegetables and livestock in cold climates, would you not choose annual vegetables because of the lower inputs required?

    I’m intrigued by your “growing annuals in the right context” comment. Could you expand on the right context?

    You say “I grow and eat lots of them and hope to always do so.” Since that seems to be the view of many regardless of whether they live in a cold climate, perhaps it is time to re-frame annual vegetables in a permaculture context, ie, include rather than exclude by omission. As I said up thread, the challenge then is to find ways to integrate these annuals in ways that are more permaculture/related techniques and less conventional. Having said that there are conventional techniques that may be very appropriate. Rootcrops such as groundnut, yacon, crosne, sunchoke, scorzonera, skirret when grown in a food forest environment are extremely damaging to that environment when harvested. Nature does not give up her bounty easily. To minimize the impact of harvesting and to reduce the calories expended in harvesting, using more conventional forms such as mulched raised beds that have very friable soil might be a better overall design approach.

    What I’m trying to do here is get folks to stretch a bit about what could be and not just plug in to what is. That is NOT meant to be a criticism of what is (other than my comments about Sepp Holzer’s terraforming being very,very hard on Nature). My comments are aimed at trying to expand what is.

  20. Regarding annuals I think we should not overlook the fact that they are part of most ecosystems, just like biennials, perennials, shrubs, trees, as succession progresses. They occur naturally on disturbed soils with disturbance not only caused by man but also by waves hitting shores, scratching wildfowl, rooting wild pigs, in areas where larger mammals congregate for shelter (treading and nutrient accumulation), where badgers or rodents tunnel and create fresh heaps of earth, where dunes shift and so on. Unless theses disturbances are quite frequent the annual communities progress to perennial communities and in many cases on to scrub or woodland, depending on location, soil, climate. I think it is these mostly small-scale disturbances that we need to emulate for sustainable annual production. Using domestic pigs or flocks of chickens to “till” and fertilize garden ground would be examples.

  21. Regarding winter in cold lcimates – in my case we’ve mostly bought stocker animals. That is, we buy young animals in spring from someone with good winter facilities, then we raise them during the grazing season, then we sell or eat them when plants go dormant. This enabled us to avoid the need for haying equipment or purchasing hay. You could certainly put up your own hay or “tree hay” (see Mark Krawczyk and Dave Jacke’s upcoming coppice book) to overwinter animals.
    Regarding best practices for annuals, I think lots of people in permaculture and the organic movement do a lovely job with this. Flat fields or terraces as opposed to tilling slopes, no-till or low-till mulch vs. heavy annual tillage, crop rotations including pasture or hay rest periods. Raised beds, aquaponics, intensive organic winter greenhouse production…
    Tim Peters’ grains were never perennial here at my home, though some overwintered. The Land Institute’s highest yielding grain currently gives 350 lbs/acre, as opposed to 4-5 tons per acre for staples like corn and wheat. To me that means the perennials are just not ready. I know some of those perennials have done well in other climates, PLEASE WRITE UP YOUR EXPERIENCES for this website if you have had any success with perennial grains in your climate.

  22. @ Eric Toensmeier,

    Thank you for sharing how you manage your grazing animals. People coming to permaculture for the first time or with no hands on experience with grazing animals need to understand the entire process, especially as it applies to cold climates.

    Re: annual vegetables, you highlight some of the tools although I would cherry-pick organics carefully since monocultures are acceptable as long as it is organic. I think that it’s time to say that annual vegetables are part of permaculture design when included using permaculture design concepts. Until this is done, people in cold climates will continue to design systems that will lead to poor nutrition or worse during the winter months. Yes, many fruits and nuts can be stored or preserved but they don’t provide a complete nutritional diet. If the Three Sisters resonate for permies and are acceptable within permaculture design, then other annual vegetables should be incorporated as well.

    Re: wheat yield, those 350 lbs will give you 245 white loaves or 525 whole wheat loves plus or minus. The ratios come from If smallholder has an acre, current perennial wheat yields are sufficient.

  23. I would like to point out that learning about the animals and good animal husbandry is essential to integrating animals into any system. Knowing what a healthy and not healthy, species specific issues, and thing like deadstock (if you have livestock…you have deadstock), breeding, as well as birthing, diseases, nutritional requirements, etc., need to be taken into account.

    Integrating animals is amazing, but don’t forget about the animal’s welfare requirements, not just our own.

    The Five Freedoms

    1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.

    2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

    3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

    4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

    5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

  24. I never count the cost of buying hay(feed) as lost. Firstly it feeds the animal so therefore must cover this in terms of production weather it is in products such as milk or eggs or in growth(meat/nest years calf etc). Secondly 98% of the feed passes thru the animal and comes out the other end greatly enhanced. Basically it costs nothing to feed an animal indoors over-winter as nothing is lost and you get it all back!

  25. I do not believe that permaculture discredits annual production. One of our greatest teachers, Masanobu Fukuoka, was a rice and barley farmer. He maintained a constant rotation between rice and barley amongst a clover living mulch, and used permaculture principles to discover his techniques. It mimics a natural grassland. I believe that techniques like his can be discovered for all heirloom annual crops, such as flax, sesame, beans, squash, etc…

    As for feeding animals, I agree with what has been said that they are a great annual or biannual addition to the food forest, but require their own pasture to allow the food forest to flourish and maintain the nutrition of the animal. Teachers like Frank Newman Turner teach us the basics of a permaculture pasture. Meadows are a natural occurrence in nature, and have a symbiotic relationship with large ruminants. Observing, respecting, and obeying nature are key. Many ancient culture venerated cattle because they saw how they effected the ecosystem: the patties dropped bombs of nutrients and seeds, attracting insects, which attract birds. The mowing allows clovers to flourish which enrich the soil and then help the grass to grow. When the tall dead grasses are trampled by the animals the straw is decomposed along with the animal’s urine and this enriches the fungal network which aids the natural sod. This organic layer on the top of the soil locks in the moisture and with techniques to spread natural minerals through the pasture it can all sustain an abundant diverse ecosystem.

    1. I do not believe that permaculture discredits annual production. Agreed but neither does it incorporate annual production into design either. It’s not so much a “sin” of commission but rather of omission. In the two Edible Forest Gardens volumes by Dave Jacke, the phrase “perennial vegetable” is used 46 times while “annual vegetable” is used 13 times.

      I think that the best take on the place annual vegetables in cold climate permaculture design comes from Ben Falk: “If this system keeps improving, we will spend a small fraction of our time gardening annual vegetables in another five to ten years as the perennial systems mature and we get better at working with them. While ours is certainly not a perfectly optimized farm, the lessons we’re learning continue to prove valuable to us and others pursuing an optimized situation. Annual vegetables simply provide high and often reliable yields when compared with fruits and nuts in this climate.” He goes on to say “Thus far we have had some great fruit years and some bad—there’s no predicting it. So we must stock our eggs in as many baskets of self-reliance as possible.” He hopes for a perennial based system but then says that it’s a good idea to diversify by having annual vegetables. I’ll bet that as time goes on he’ll start to design them into his systems.

  26. Could you please tell me if skirret tops and/or roots are safe for sheep to eat? And beyond safe would it be a good forage crop for them? Some of my property has problems with excess water and it seems like it would be a great choice but I need it to be good for the sheep. Thanks!

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