Shamanism and Forest Gardens: reconnecting the pathways to productivity.

(is there a bustle in your hedgrow?)
It could be argued that forest gardens were the precursor to present
day agroforestry innovations; whereby the planting of trees alongside
the planting of annual crops of grains or vegetables
produces,eventually, a secondary crop of wood, fruit,nuts, and
biomass, all the while providing habitat for the birds and bees.
Having spent the weekend at an agroforestry conference in Quebec City
(Colloque En Agroforestry, University of Laval) it was heartening to
see the interest in this subject especially considering the young age
of the students who were dedicating 3-4 years of their life to
studying this exciting practice.


We are way behind some European cultures who have never stopped planting and maintaining hedgrow
systems to complement their pasture based economics.

For it is in the
hedgerow where the spirit of the farm often lies. It is there in the
green band of trees, shrubs and vines that the Fox and Weasel live.

These apex predators owe their livelihood of course to all the little
creatures, the insects, amphibians, earthworms, nematodes  and mycelia
who all contribute to improving soil health, and from good soil all
life flows. There are several places in Quebec where agroforestry
projects have been implanted, long lines of either conifers or hybrid
poplars or fast growing shrubs and small trees such as Seaberry,
Aronia and Elderberry have grown into long lines of productive green-
biomass- carbon sequestering- frog producing- soil stabilizing- wind
and snow sheltering- biomes.

These buffer zones provide many ecosytem
services. Decreasing soil erosion is a big one and often one of the
biggest reasons a farmer is convinced to plant trees while he watches his cornfield eroding into the ditch beside the eastern townships autoroute.  It seems like
there is a bit of a battle going on for funding and of course the ones
at the front of the line are the ones who produce our food commodities
like corn and grains. Fulfilling all the required governmental points
and paying for their seat at the table allows producers to get funded
to plant a tree buffer along the riparian edge of a field or to plant
long lines of trees to act as wind and snow breaks.

interesting article on African study of urban agroforestry  and how fruit trees in urban areas can address nutrition in growing cities

I think that small scale, private and community based forest gardens should be included
in the wider umbrella of agroforestry funding as these smaller systems
are often planted by volunteers in urban and semi urban areas where
these forests get a lot of public exposure.It is this public exposure
that is so crucial to this movement – not to mention the free food
which the public will one day partake of. Large scale agroforestry
plantings on commercial farms are a crucial step towards mitigating
the effects of a changing climate – but to democratize the process of
growing food and increasing biodiversity we must include the little
local forests that are growing wild as well as  the managed forest
gardens. Forest planting on a village scale will nurture and humanize
agroforestry and help it grow into the wider public domain. In this
public a connection will grow between the citizens who plant and
maintain these forests and once this connection is cemented with the
production of food and medicine in the form of plants then the
connection will pass to the next generation – a fundamental change
will take place in denuded urban landscapes  – not only will birds and
other wildlife be provided with shelter – but humans too living in
these neighbourhoods will be able to care for a patch of wild land
amidst a sea of impervious concrete and car dominated landscapes where
a sense of belonging is difficult, not to mention the possibility of
growing food or being a earth caretaker.

I think it is a basic human instinct, a desire, to be a caretaker,to tend to a living system –
especially factoring in the very real possibility that the patch of
ground being cared for may one day sustain the caretaker physically
and spiritually. Eating a handful of berries from plants that you have
planted provides more phsychic nourishment than a bucket of imported
fruit does. This of course is not quantifiable but no less gratifying
to those who have experienced this ancient rite of passage. In order
to unite these rites of passage, of planting and harvest, we need only
to sidestep off the straight blocks of annual production and into the
meandering chaos of a truly living perrennial polyculture food
system,and it is from this place, the hedgerow, where we will be led
back home into the forest.


this picture courtesy of permex



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