Native Plant Agricultural Demonstration Project
What is Native Plant Agriculture?
Currently our agricultural system is based on annuals; corn, wheat, soybeans, and a few other crops which are all seed crops. Native Plant-Based Agriculture replaces the annual seed crop system with perennial seed crops mostly in the form of tree nuts such as Pecans, Oaks, Chestnuts, Hickories, and Hazelnuts but also using native bean crops and native sunflower seed crops. These woody plants can be spaced out so their canopies don't touch allowing for smaller trees, shrubs, and herbaceous crops to be grown in between and around them diversifying the agricultural landscape, per acre. Native examples of the lower level plants would be Black Raspberries, Wild Plums, Serviceberry, Passionflower, Stinging Nettle, Groundnut, Grapes, Cut-leaf Coneflower, Jerusualem Artichoke, Evening Primrose, PawPaw, American Persimmon and many more. When agriculture shifts to an Native Plant Based perennial system, soil is conserved, more carbon is sequestered in the soil and above ground, irrigation needs decrease, fertilizer needs decrease and biodiversity increases in response to the native plant diversity. Since the plants are native, it becomes "eco-inclusive", allowing all types of native insects including pollinators, and higher life forms to co-exist. Compare this with our current agricultural system which is "eco-exclusive" primarily supporting one single species desires (humans). In fact, any food system that isn't based in native plants is much more so eco-exclusive, as non-native plants lack the co-evolution with native insects and wildlife to support them.
When our agricultural system incorporates native plants as the foundation, we no longer have to look at the hundreds of millions of acres of agricultural land as habitat loss in the way that we do today. This would also in part, mitigate what is called habitat fragmentation, by connecting perennial native plant agricultural land to existing undeveloped habitat. We would not need to talk about Monarch butterfly decline or pollinator decline if our Agricultural system would include them, instead of exclude them. Though this requires a major cultural shifts in awareness of native plant foods, diet choice, energy use, and a comprehensive land use revolution that could have the potential to mitigate climate change. Our 6-10 acre indigenous farm planting, is just starting the conversation locally, building the foundation of a movement we hope to transform the midwest U.S. from its agriculturally dead state, to the most eco-inclusive, biodiversity supportive agricultural system in modern times.
Phases of Developing Our Demonstration Project
Phase 1: Seed Collection and Sapling Growing (2018 fall-2019 Fall)
This phase we particularly looking for, collecting, and growing out stock for the planting phase of the project. We need to source the plants from local populations from central Indiana, to Central Ohio, and south to central Kentucky. If you'd like to contribute seed to this project see our species list for seed collection below. Note: not all species in the project will come from seed, some will come from cultivars such as Pawpaw and Persimmon. During this phase we’ll also be growing much of the plant material for the next phase (planting the farm) in our native nursery.
Phase 2:Land Purchase, Planting the Farm (Winter of 2019)
We’re on track for a 2019 fall/early winter land purchase of 8-12 acres, below is what the farm will be planted with. Many of the crops will take 1-2 years to mature, some 5-7 years, and the hickories-oaks-pecans-chestnuts will take 20-30 years before they bear significant amounts. Each year though, the native food festivals will feature all of these native foods from outer sources + the farm.
What we're growing/Planting in our 6-10 acre promotional project
Native Fruit Production: PawPaw Cultivars, American Persimmon Cultivars, Selected Wild Plum strains (3 different species of Wild Plum), Passionflower, Ground Cherries: Physalis longifolia, Physalis pubescens, Malus coronaria (Sweet Crabapple), Aronia cultivars, Elderberry (medicinal), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia), Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca) cultivars, Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Serviceberry species (Amelanchier sp.), and Black Raspberry cultivars.
Native leaf/stem or vegetable crops: Virginia Spiderwort, Ohio Spiderwort, Riverbank Grape (leaves/stems/tendrils), Stinging Nettle, Wood Nettle, Common Milkweed, Cutleaf Coneflower, Horseweed, Passionflower (leaves/stems/tendrils), American Linden, Red Mulberry, Lamb's Quarters, Amaranthus: hybridus, powellii, tuberculatus. Allium cernuum (leaves/roots), Smilax herbacea (carrion flower), Smilax rotundifolia (common greenbrier), Pitseed Goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), Missouri Lambquarters (C. missouriense), Evening Primrose, River Cane (Shoots) Arundinaria gigantea.
Native Root Crops: Marsh Blazing Star, Prairie Blazing Star, Evening Primrose, Groundnut (Apios americana), Wild Potato vine (Ipomea pandurata), Jerusalem Artichoke Cultivars, MaxChokes (Helianthus tuberosus x Helianthus maximilliani), Smilax herbacea (carrion flower), Smilax rotundifolia (common greenbrier), Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides).
Native Seed/Nut Crops: Oak species, Hickory species (including Pecans), Dunstan Chestnuts (mostly native), American Hazelnuts (Corylus americana), Helianthus annus cultivars (Annual sunflower), Native Amaranth species, and Groundnut (beans).
Native Wetland/Pond Aquaculture Crops: Arrowhead - Root (Sagittaria latifolia), Broadleaf Cattail-Root/shoot (Typha latifolia), American Lotus-stems/roots (Nelumbo lutea).
Sustainable Native Fish Production - Native Aquaculture
Channel Catfish (+50% feed conversion rate), Sunfish family fish (+50% feed conversion rate). The fish crops will be fed primarily on invasive carp (or carp-born maggots), and invasive insects such as non-native earthworms and Japanese Beetles. Carp will also be a part of the native food festivals to promote the reduction of this invasive species. Little do people know, carp are the number 1 farmed fish in the world, by weight, for human consumption.
The goal of this constructed Wetland/Pond transitionary area on the farm will be not only to promote the most sustainable meat production possible, but to create a habitat that will significantly raise the biodiversity per acre of native plant agriculture. The departure from non-native land based livestock also eliminates most of the loss inherent in meat production. Cows convert what they eat into harvested meat at ratio of 1 to 3%, meaning 97-99% loss. Pigs; 10-11% conversion, 90-89% loss. Chicken; 13% conversion, 87% loss. Comparatively native Channel Catfish and Sunfish family fish can convert feed at over 55% efficiency, 45% loss. This difference in efficiency is primarily because their cold blooded (don’t use calories to stay warm) and suspended in water (less energy needed to move or maintain position). With most of their feed derived from invasive insects and invasive animals, the biodiversity impact can become positive with eating native aquaculture derived fish as your meat of choice, if you can’t bare the idea of consuming carp directly.
Native Herbs for medicinal and culinary use: Horseweed, Prickly Ash, Nodding Wild Onion, Prairie Onion (Allium Canadense), Anise Hyssop, Wild Bergamot, Yarrow, Elderberry, Stinging Nettle, Sumac Species, Mountain Mint 3 species, Field Mint, Canadian Goldenrod, Spicebush, American and Slippery Elm, Self Heal, Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), American Beauty Berry (Calicarpa americana)
1-2 acre native meadow with native thicket species that won't be selected until the site is selected, as the site determines the plant selection. This section will feature over 40 species of native plants.
Phase 3 Native Plant Agricultural Food Festivals (2020-Beyond)
These food/herb/ecology festivals will use the foods and herbs grown on the farm + locally sourced to promote native plant agriculture and native plant-based diets. It will also serve as a place to learn about and connect with the +60 species of native plants on the farm and the wildlife they support. To supplement these bigger festivals, we'll also hold multiple workshops a year and plant sales on site for you to start your own native plant agricultural projects. It will take some years for the trees to start producing, but the native meadows, and herbacous perennial crops will establish and begin within 1-3 years of planting.