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Kirk HansonIntroduction to Ecological Design and
Agroforestry Systems at Wild Thyme Farm

by Kirk Hanson

Ecological Design evolves from the relationship between landscape and culture. As a networking system it seeks to create efficient connections between the needs of a community and local resources. Acting upon the premise that ecological systems present the best model for sustainable, energy efficient design, Ecological design draws from nature's example to apply strategies of conservation, regeneration, and stewardship to all levels of community design.

Intensive edible landscape
Nature's economy is exemplified by a highly evolved system of efficient resource management. Incoming energies (wind, sunlight, and water) are either directly used or immediately stored within the ecosystem. Nutrients are primarily generated in proximityto where they will be utilized and wastes are recycled and managed for productivity. Diversity is maximized, but it is in the efficient connectionsbetween diverse elements that nature has developed the means to sustainably manage itself. The vast network of interrelated species mutually support each other working to create a natural community that is both self-maintaining and self-sustaining.
As the economic health of most societies is agriculturally based, Ecological Design first strives to create an enduring system of food production. By adopting an ecological model, agricultural systems are designed that mimic nature's diversity by integrating tree crops, animals, and annual and perennial plants. Unlike a conventional monoculture, cultivating a diverse ecological system keeps such functions as soil building, biological pest management, and nutrient recycling intact and inherent to the system. By emphasizing diversity and the careful management of species, multi-cropping systems are quickly evolving as sustainable methods of producing food and other necessary products.
Nature's Design
From the architecture and functions of natural systems we find an examplar of energy efficient resource management.
Three Agroforestry Systems
Three case studies of such multi-cropping systems are being developed at Wild Thyme Farm. Called "agroforestry systems" these constructed ecosystems blend agriculture with forestry to provide a wider range of products, ranging from food to wood resources, on a sustainable basis.
Food Agroforestry
It is in the construction of fruit and nut agroforestry systems that we will find the greatest production of food and wood resources possible. On Wild Thyme Farm such systems are being developed for sustainable harvesting of fruits, nuts, berries, and herbs as well as timber, small diameter craft wood, and animal forage crops.
Bamboo Agroforestry
As bamboo is capable of occupying a wide variety of niches in the farm landscape we have situated groves throughout various micro-climates and have employed it in many onsite applications. By designing bamboo into mixed-use agroforestry complexes we will maximize its functionality while integrating it with other production crops.
Riparian Agroforestry
Riparian bottomlands offer the most productive soils in the farm landscape. Historically they have also witnessed the greatest neglect due to mis-use. At Wild Thyme Farm we are designing riparian agroforestry systems that protect the fragile ecology of riparian corridors while providing multiple yields for sustainable harvesting.
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