Eric Toensmeier

A Tool for a User-Generated Polyculture Pattern Language

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This article describes the efforts of the Apios Institute to use our website to develop a user–generated pattern language of polycultures, sites, and species. It is part of our campaign to raise funds and get new members to make our website the tool we dream it can be. This article lays out quite a bit more about that dream: a tool to help people around the world to more easily […]

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A Global Wiki – A Call to Join

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Designing perennial polycultures (guilds) can be a big challenge. It can be hard to find information on perennial crops and support species. There is a need for information, sample polycultures, and design templates. The Apios Institute is a collaborative network of farmers, gardeners, and researchers focused on integrated perennial-crop agroecosystems (variously known as multistrata agroforests, tropical homegardens, food forests, and forest gardens). Since 2007 we have worked to address these […]

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Polyculture Pattern Language: Nitrogen Fixation Patterns

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When Dave Jacke and I were writing Edible Forest Gardens, we discussed polyculture design extensively. We felt that we were beginning to see the vague outlines of an international pattern language of polycultures – a set of basic templates that might be used regardless of climate or the particular species in question. Give the huge diversity of crop species and possible combinations, there may be an almost infinite number of […]

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A Global Wiki of Perennial Crops, Polycultures, and Food Forest Sites

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Designing perennial polycultures (guilds) can be a big challenge. It can be hard to find information on perennial crops and support species. There is a need for information, sample polycultures, and design templates.

Since 2007 we have worked to address these key needs on our site, a crowdsourced tool featuring perennial crops, polycultures, and food forests. Thus far our focus has been on humid temperate systems, but we are raising funds to expand to a global resource. At the same time we’ll be implementing a major overhaul of our site. This will include the open-access addition of the 700 perennial crop species from Eric Toensmeier’s forthcoming book The Carbon Farming Solution.

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Guidelines for Perennial Polyculture Design

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Polyculture design can be bewildering and even intimidating. I’ve been planting and thinking about polycultures for over two decades. During that time I’ve planted a lot of failed polycultures that didn’t work for one reason or another, as well as some successful ones. I’ve also visited many sites in many climates and seen polycultures functioning very well – especially in the tropics, where agroforestry systems are much farther along than my cold temperate home.

I’ve assembled a set of guidelines for designing polycultures, that I’d like to share with you. They are a work in progress and far from perfect, but, in concert with the design process shown below, they have helped hundreds of people in my courses and workshops to feel ready to go home and design and install their own polycultures.

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Carbon Farming Course, Winter 2015 (NY, USA)

Registration is now officially open for the 2015 Carbon Farming Course, to be held February 3-22, 2015 at the Taconic Retreat Center in New York’s Hudson Valley, USA. Based on your survey responses, the Carbon Farming Team chose a top-notch palette of topics and trainers for the event. Workshops include: Holistic Management & Grazing Keyline Farming Carbon Farming Intensive Financing Regenerative Agriculture Living Soils Restoration Agriculture …and more!

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Intensive Silvopasture – a Win-Win for Carbon and Yield

I don’t have rights to a photo of intensive silvopasture, but in this image we have high density of leucaena with pasture below, thus a very similar pattern. Ethan Roland for scale. As I research my book on carbon-sequestering agriculture I am occasionally struck by particularly promising techniques that mitigate climate change, build soils, and actually increase production of human food or other yields. One such system that has me […]

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Regenerative Farm Enterprise Planning Workshop (Virginia, USA, October 18-23, 2014)

What: Regenerative Farm Enterprise Planning Workshop Where: Shannon Farm Community in Afton, Virginia, USA When: October 18-23, 2014 Who: With Eric Toensmeier, Rafter Sass Ferguson, and Elizabeth Ü Register through Blue Ridge Permaculture. Scaling up ecological agriculture is one of the critical challenges we face in addressing climate change and the global food crisis. Integrated perennial farm businesses are a key part of the solution when planned and managed effectively; […]

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Fukuoka’s Food Forest

Mandarin orange, a main crop of Fukuoka’s food forest. At one time he was shipping an impressive 90 tons of citrus fruit annually Many of us in the permaculture and organic movements have read Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution, which lays out his ingenious (though hard to replicate) no-till organic rice production system. I was surprised and pleased when, in my job as librarian for the New England […]

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Regenerative Farm Enterprise Planning Workshop (Virginia, USA, October 18-23, 2014)

What: Regenerative Farm Enterprise Planning Workshop Where: Shannon Farm Community in Afton, Virginia, USA When: October 18-23, 2014 Who: With Eric Toensmeier, Rafter Sass Ferguson, and Elizabeth Ü Register through Blue Ridge Permaculture. Scaling up ecological agriculture is one of the critical challenges we face in addressing climate change and the global food crisis. Integrated perennial farm businesses are a key part of the solution when planned and managed effectively; […]

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Useful Plants from Robert Nold’s “High and Dry”

One of the more challenging environments for food production is cold and arid. I’ve been investigating useful perennial plants for that climate for many years. A few years ago I purchased Robert Nold’s High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants. Robert isn’t interested in growing these plants for food, but he has an incredible wealth of knowledge and years of experience in growing plants in his Littleton, Colorado garden […]

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Integrated Ecological Design With Brad Lancaster and Eric Toensmeier (Colorado, 25 July – August 8, 2014)

What: Study integrated ecological design with two of the foremost instructors and practitioners in permaculture. When: Friday July 25-Sunday August 8th Where: Woodbine Ecology Center, Colorado, USA Longevity. Abundance. Regeneration. Oases. Beauty. Bounty. Plant the Rain. Garden Like a Forest. Design With Natural Patterns. Learn water harvesting and earthworks techniques, and how to create edible forest gardens, for easier, more long-lasting, beautiful yields and resiliency. Through studying examples and hands-on […]

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