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Restoration Agriculture 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1601730350
ISBN-10: 1601730357
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Acres U.S.A.; 1 edition (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601730357
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601730350
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This work attempts to be an introduction to sustainable farming. The author's assertion (well supported by the evidence he cites) is that our current agricultural model is failing, and that we need to move away from a system built on annual plants, and towards a system built on perennial growth. This is permanent agriculture, or "permaculture". His model for this is an idealized, carefully structured combination of plants, or "polyculture" for food, fuel, and animal forage. In his words: "[w]hat we are doing is designing an agricultural system that closely mimics the savanna in its structure, the species mix, and in ecological function."

This model has been outlined in pieces in other books. Much of his ideas about livestock forage are similar to what Joel Salatin writes, though Shepard is less strident, and more open to the idea of a vegetarian diet. He spends a great deal of time demonstrating with chart and figures how, exactly, a more perennial agricultural model can generate more nutritious calories per acre than the current single crop. But the graphs do not overwhelm.

I was pleased by the concrete examples in the book. Shepard demonstrates, in color pictures and with facts and figures, the viability of a farm based on permaculture principles. He gives tree spacings, plant yields, and grazing techniques. He explains the proper ratio of cows to sheep, for instance. However I was expecting a lot more details regarding plant choices, harvesting techniques, etc. What can be said for Shepard is that he stays on point better than, and is more accessible than, Bill Mollison, who has a tendency to wax philosophical. That said,
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Format: Paperback
I have read several permaculture books (Holmgren, Holzer, Hemenway, Jacke, Bane, etc.), and Mark Shepard's 'Restoration Agriculture' is worthy of its subtitle 'Real-World Permaculture for Farmers'. He has combined his hard-nosed practicality from his engineering background with a hefty dose of permacultural idealism to successfully realize his dream of 'New Forest Farm'. Shepard has been doing broad-scale permaculture/agroforestry since the mid 1990's, and has turned an old eroding cornfield into a productive property with fruit trees, nut trees, fruit shrubs, berries, vines, mushrooms, animals, bees, and annual (squash) and perennial (asparagus) vegetables as cash crops to help pay bills until the perennials start bearing more heavily.

Of special interest to me were chapters 11 and 12, in which he deals with questions about the capacity of a perennial agriculture to provide enough calories to feed people. Can 'permaculture' really feed people or must we subsidize the permaculture fantasy with destructive annual tillage and a diet based on annual crops? Shepard admits his figures are a bit rough (yields for polycultures will change as trees mature), but corn produces about 13 million calories per acre annually, and Mr. Shepard suggests that a perennial system with perhaps a few annuals alley-cropped, can produce 6 million calories per acre. He says nutritionally there is simply no comparison between a monocrop of corn and the variety of a perennial system - the nutrition of the perennial system is vastly superior to a corn-based diet.
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Format: Paperback
I totally enjoyed this book. Although other reviewers complained that he didn't give specifics about what plants to grow and how to put them in the ground (I mean, seriously guys--you each have a planting zone; he gave you the plant families and how to intermingle them--do your own research), that's not really what I wanted from the book. I wanted to better understand the overarching principles and how I can apply them to my own measly few acres. He more than gave me that information, as well as how it can work with my cows and chickens and, if I can talk my husband into it, pigs. Not only that he gave me ideas and glimmers of ideas on what is possible with what I have. I can run with it from there.

And best of all I now practice the STUN (Sheer, Total, Utter, Neglect) planting method. I love it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good book but is basically a rehash of the 1929 classic Tree Crops by J. Russell Smith which is publicly available from a dozen sources. Actually in many ways Smith's book is better because he actually conducted research and didn't just showcase his own farm, which is what Shepard basically does. Shepard is also heavy on the personal opinion and light on the practical advice. It is not a bad book, but I would get it from a library if you can, or just read Tree Crops. I sure regret dropping $25 on it!

After reading this book a second time I will add that I commend some of the ideas in the book, however, I must denounce some flaws. To being with, perennial crops are not more reliable than annual. I have perennial and annual crops. It's almost an every other year that a late frost, for a season, makes either apples, pears, or peaches a TOTAL loss where I live by killing the blossoms. The only protection is having apples, pears, and peaches which all blossom at different times. Meanwhile, I have never known (nor do I know anyone) who has known a modern corn crop to fail. Might be a disappointing year (under 180 bu/acre), but corn is tough stuff. I've seen it withstand winds that toppled apple and oak trees, I've seen it weather droughts that toasted perennial pastures, and it isn't planted when floods or winter weather are a worry, while all perennials need to withstand both.

Furthermore, I am left wondering how the harvest of the diversity of crops at all different heights and whatnot is supposed to be achieved with a reasonable amount of work.
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