By David Norman
This summer I got to witness the evolution of an on-going project to wrestle economic value from a 110 acre property in the Missouri Ozarks. This many acres may sound like a big chunk of land but the Ozark soil is not suitable farmland: it is acidic and quite rocky (full of chert and sandstone). But what does grow well on it are timber and nut trees, as well as wildlife and things like ginseng, cohosh and shitake mushrooms in the semi-shade understory.
The owners of this land are getting help from the Missouri Department of Conservation to harvest the right sizes and species of trees for timber, as well as to plant good varieties of mulberry, walnut and pecan, and blackberry and elderberry in the slightly more open areas where they also have peach, apple, and plum. Just like we see in the agroforestry and permaculture- type systems we visit in the field course, my friends’ set-up is not very costly nor energy intensive. There are also lots of connections. The greater moisture and partial shade of the fruit and nut trees provides the right micro climate for the low-growing berry plants, and the squirrels and deer that some people might view as pests supply my friends with valuable protein for the table.
While there this first weekend in August we harvested a whole bunch of delicious wild chanterelle mushrooms. We collected blackberries too, that got converted into a most delicious cobbler.