For a thorough introduction to the many ways you can grow food in the woods, there’s no beating Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel’s excellent book Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests.
If you drive around in the country, you’re bound to see a few farms. Maybe there are rows of corn, or some cows on a hillside. You might have your own small farm, or even a backyard vegetable garden.
Wherever you see food growing, there’s generally something you expect a lot of: sunlight. All those tasty foods need light to grow. You wouldn’t expect to grow food in a place with a lot of shade like, say, your woods.
But that shaded environment can be perfect for a host of specialty crops. You might not grow corn or tomatoes in the woods, but ginseng, maple syrup, mushrooms, nuts, and even certain livestock are just a few of the options.
Where can you go to get started in pursuing any of these crops? We have some free resources here on MyWoodot for maple syrup, ginseng, and shiitake mushrooms that are good for beginners. I also did a blog post a while back on blackberry picking. But for a thorough introduction to the many ways you can grow food in the woods, there’s no beating Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel’s excellent book Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests. The book is published by Chelsea Green Publishing in Vermont.
Don’t let the fancy subtitle scare you. Farming the Woods is a solid introduction to “agroforestry”—farming beneath trees—with entire chapters on mushrooms, medicinals, and livestock. It’s loaded with pictures, projects, and case studies of real landowners growing and harvesting products from their woods, either for their own use or to sell. Turning to a random page while writing this paragraph revealed a sidebar called “Making Tincture from Hawthorn Berries” with step-by-step instructions (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I have a thing for hawthorn).
The best part about this book is that it’s one where the authors really know their stuff, and not just from reading about it. Both authors have first-hand experience with forest farming including raising nut crops, shiitake mushrooms, and even duck eggs.
The book is pricey (list price $39.95), but you can usually find it for less online. I paid about $20 for my copy. If you own some wooded land and are interested in growing your own food, this book is well worth the cost.