Steve Gabriel

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since Mar 22, 2013
Steve Gabriel is an ecologist, educator, and forest farmer living and working in the Finger Lakes Region of central New York. He has co-founded the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, worked as land use manager for Cayuga Nature Center, co-owned a 500 tap maple sugaring operation, and taught hundreds of students about ecological and sustainable design. He currently splits his time between work for the Cooperative Extension Garden-Based Learning program at Cornell University and developing his business Work With Nature, where he grows gourmet mushrooms, manages small woodlots for local landowners, and offers mushroom inoculation classes.
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Recent posts by Steve Gabriel

Hi woodland forum:

I wanted to think you all for your questions and conversation last week in the forum here. I had a good time and appreciate the interest and enthusiasm.

Admittedly, I am not a regular contributor to the Permies.com forums - not for lack of interest but from lack of time and a very slow internet connection here at the farm. But my participation inspired me to try and check in more often. I will do my best!

In the meantime, please help share the word about our book by sending interested folks to www.farmingthewoods.com

I am also happy to answer questions, though a quicker response will happen if you post/message to our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FarmingTheWoods or email to farmingthewoods@gmail.com.

Many thanks, and happy growing!

Steve Gabriel
6 years ago
Hi Lorenzo:

Sounds like a wonderful place! The advice I would give is to find the balance between two things: Your own goals and the current trend of the landscape. In the book we talk about forest types and the benefits of learning your particular forest type and then really working within the confines of that to develop your system. Your goals will also direct you. If you want to dabble in lots of things, the system will end up very different than if you are seeking to generate more income, which will mean less species and more intensive production.

I appreciate Ben's distinction of woodland vs forest, which Dave Jacke also makes (as do we, in the book). There really isn't a hardline between the distinction technically, but its important conceptually that forest can range dramatically from full canopy to savannah like conditions, which will also largely determine your course of action.

I am unsure about shiitake in that warm of a zone, but I bet if you can locate WARM WEATHER strains you will do better. You certainly have a much wider palate of wonderful species to work with there.

have fun!

Steve
6 years ago
Hi Pamela:

Thanks for your interest, and question.

Full disclosure: I am biased! So naturally I think our book has a lot to offer anyone working in forested systems!

We tried to offer some bigger picture context and theory and then devote most of the book to the technical how-to of growing many temperature plants, trees, and mushrooms. A lot of this content would be relevant to your situation, it seems.

As context, my "forest farm" is only 1 acre. You can put a lot of these elements into practice in pretty small spaces.

cheers
Steve
6 years ago
Thanks Ashley, we are always pleased to here folks feel like the content will be relevant to them.

Sounds like you have a great strategy - observe what is there, then integrate other elements slowly, observing to see how the changes you make affect the rest of the system...

1.5 acres may seems small, but its really nice. In fact, of our ten acres, only about 3.5 is actually woodland (we are tree planting on the rest!). In just one acre we have our sugar maple grove for syrup, produce shiitake mushrooms, and raise our ducks. You can do a lot on very little land.

cheers
Steve
6 years ago
To respond to some of the responses:


1) (CJ) Elaborating on animals....well, we do so in the book. If you go down the silvopasture route, you can consider ruminants in your forestlands (see http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/MapleAgrofor/Silvopasturing3-3-2011.pdf for a good starting guide). Goats and pigs are appropriate for certain types of land and situations, but in the wrong place they can wreak havoc. We've been a big fan of ducks in the woods (see our write up on ducks at http://farmingthewoods.com/media/).

2) (ROB) - yes, they are roughly from most profitable to least....though all on the list have higher likelihood than others.

3) (CJ again) - why not ramps an fiddleheads? Because there is MUCH work to be done on propagation and cultivation before there is an economic bet. Of course, these are wildharvested often and sold for good income. We separate wildcrating from cultivation in the book - and focus on cultivation because much of the wild populations are threatened.

6 years ago
Hi Jonathan:

Yes, you are correct in that this is outside my area of expertise. But Ken has some experience in such climates - I will see what he has to say and try to get back to you!

thanks
Steve
6 years ago
Hey folks:

Keep in mind that we have an abundance of the Eastern Filbert Blight (http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/factsheets/filbertblight.pdf) in North America. This means that it is lethal to the European Hazels (Corylus avellana) which have larger nut production in terms of size and volume. Thus, commercial production in the US was largely stunted as it tried to take a hold. The European variety lacks the cold hardiness of the American hazel (Corylus americana) and so many breeders are working on and offering hybrids as a balance to the hardness + blight resistance.

Phil Rutter interestingly showed me his hybrids that were still getting hit with blight, yet because his plants were so vigorous, he actually saw it as a partial "benefit" - the blight tended to thin out the weaker stems.

Steve
6 years ago
Hi Maggie.

That does look like oregon grape to me, from the photos. (Mahonia aquifolium) - not to be confused with vine grapes for eating/wine making. This seems like a good description of the plant and uses: http://wildfoodsandmedicines.com/oregon-grape/

Onto your original question - the best way to know what will do well in your area is to get out there and explore! Learn the forest types of your region, and see what edibles and medicinal plants already thrive there. Then you can add in others. Nature, and our local ecosystems, are the best teacher.

Of course, I also have to mention mushooms again. Getting started with some inoculated logs equals a good, nutritious yield from your woods - and you can feel compelled do to some thinning of trees in a way the benefits the residual stand.

cheers
Steve
6 years ago
Hi folks:


Ramps are TRICKY. Let's get that established from the get-go.

As we outline in the book, and in this previous blog post, (http://farmingthewoods.com/2013/04/18/ramps/), there is potentially a lot of overharvesting going on for wild populations. So what are we to do?

Similar to ginseng, a good strategy is to divide ramps from a local stand and start a new patch in your forest. But not just any woods - ramps have a particular ecosystem type they like, and they probably won't do well outside of that range. The ideal site is; Sugar Maple woods, North or East facing slope, with plenty of moist soil rich in organic matter. You can stretch some of these qualities a bit, but probably won't have much luck say, on a South facing slope dominated by Oak.

Also critical is understanding the life cycle dynamics of this species. Our extension forest farming team put together a great series of videos on ramp culture: http://www.extension.org/pages/69588/youtube-channel-ramp-series

Seed is also potentially a good way to start ramps. Seeds take up to 18 months to germinate, so often people think it's not working, when really they need to give a patch more time. We've had the best success with both sowing seed and transplanting bulbs in the late summer/early fall. (NOW).

cheers
Steve


6 years ago
Hello vine-fanatics.

Some good ideas here. I don't have a ton of experience with vines and we mostly deal with grapevine here, which I like to cut at the base (separate vine from root system) and then come back in 3 - 6 months once its dried out to pull down from the trees.

Combining vines with trees isn't really great in practice, I think. Better to build a strong wooden structure. Hops and Hardy Kiwi in particular will really stress trees, and even a weak trellis. Plus they can climb out of easy reach for harvesting.

Steve
6 years ago