Native Plant Agricultural Demonstration Project
What is Native Plant-Based 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.
Seeds needed-Only from locally wild populations (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana born)
Stinging Nettle, Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Evening Primrose, Wild Potato Vine (Ipomea pandurata), Groundnut (Apios americana), Elderberry, Wild Plum species (there are 5 native species of wild plum locally), and American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)
Phase 2:Land Purchase, Planting the Farm (Winter of 2019)
What we're growing/Planting in our 6-10 acre promotional project
Native Fruit Production: PawPaw Cultivars, American Persimmon Cultivars, Selected Wild Plum strains (5 different species of Wild PLum), Passionflower, Ground Cherries: Physalis longifolia, Physalis pubescens, 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, Common Milkweed, Cutleaf Coneflower, Horseweed, Passionflower (leaves/stems/tendrils), American Linden, Lamb's Quarters, Amaranthus: hybridus, powellii, and retroflexus.
Native Root Crops: Marsh Blazing Star, Prairie Blazing Star, Evening Primrose, Groundnut (Apios americana), Wild Potato vine (Ipomea pandurata), Jerusalem Artichoke Cultivars.
Native Seed/Nut Crops: Oak species, Hickory species, Dunstan Chestnuts (mostly native), Hybrid Hazelnuts (half native), American Hazelnuts (Corylus americana), Helianthus annus cultivars, and Groundnut (beans).
Native Herbs for medicinal and culinary use: Horseweed, Nodding Wild Onion, Anise Hyssop, Wild Bergamot, Yarrow, Elderberry, Sumac, Mountain Mint 3 species, Field Mint, Canadian Goldenrod, Sumac species, Spicebush, American and Slippery Elm, Self Heal, Common Juniper (Juniperus communis),
Non-native plants cultivated by indigenous people
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1-2 acre native meadow with native shrub and tree 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 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. 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 1-2 years of planting.