Agroforestry Application, Non-Timber Forest Species Nursery Growers Cooperative

Project Overview

FNC03-465
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2003: $15,256.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $8,323.00
FS Funds: $7,628.00
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Commodities

  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, ornamentals

Practices

  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forestry, intercropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, networking
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Summary:

    PROJECT PARTICIPANTS AND BACKGROUND
    Penny and George Frazier - Small Farm Owners – certified organic and wild crops. Land became wild crop certified during the project and as a result of expanded interest in wild crops. Currently certified for 78 species of wild crops.

    James Van Kirk – Wild crafter and small scale grower and long term resident, owning a portion of a farm remnant. Mr. Van Kirk uses the property for personal wild-crafting and personal agriculture use. He is a retired man, with a long and extensive collection of regional knowledge and experience in all types of plant cultivation. J.D. led multiple training and field collection trips over the course of this project and developed an extensive archival record of our project.

    Patricia Snyder – Lessee of family farm remnant, college degree business management and environmental science. Property was historically a family farm. Pattie became seriously ill during the course of the project and mid-way through could no longer participate.

    Bob Peterson – Co-owner family farm property. Mr. Peterson has a special interest in native plants. During the course of this project, Mr. Peterson and his sister became Master Gardeners. Mr. Peterson purchased three greenhouses, developed water gardens, retail outlet, nursery and cultivated his grounds for native plant production. He became a licensed nurseryman specializing in native plants and working with the Missouri Native Seed Association to develop multiple species seed plots. The land was not used for agriculture purposes prior to the project. Bob has jumped into this project with both feet, developing resources for 35 raised seed beds, in addition to those constructed with project funds. His extended family have become supporters and informal cooperators in this endeavor. Bob has become a community resource for native species with local people often bringing him plants and asking for identification of various species.

    Russ and Brenda Adkison – Owners of 80 acres, joined the project mid-term having purchased a nearby farm in the summer of 2004. Russ’s family background included traditional livestock and market gardening. He became highly interested in working with native plant species and harvesting wild crops for income. Russ harvested multiple species for seed stock and income from forest lands on both his farm and his parent’s farm.

    Informal Participants – in addition to the families listed above, several other families opted in and out of the project. We did our best to include everyone who was interested, and shared resources such as seeds and rootstock, together with ever developing plant knowledge with community members.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    Fall 2003
    • Root and Seed stock Selection – Fall Seed and Root Collection
    • Cooperative Farmstead Clean-up schedule
    • Individual land use map preparation
    This ended up being an on-going process rather than a single event. Too much work to get done in short periods of time, land use plans changing as project evolved and as additional education was received.

    • Secure raw materials for soil development and for raised beds
    • Article for local paper on project and efforts, including photos of collection process
    • Meetings of growers group.

    Winter/Spring 2004
    • Seed and Rootstock Collection for planting
    • Construction of 16 Raised Beds – EXCEEDED TARGET
    The construction of the raised beds went through multiple design processes. In that native plants have much longer and larger root systems than other types of “crops” and because we wished to harvest roots as well as seeds, the bed design represented a critical part of our project. While the dirt used to fill the beds tested appropriately for fertility, there were problems with our first planting efforts. We believe that the dirt – while testing great for elements – did not contain all the proper microbes for healthy plant growth. We experimented with microbial inoculants and part of the project was scrapped, with the funds redirected to building soils in more familiar ways. There were too many unknowns for us to feel comfortable in large scale use of inoculants.
    • Purchased seeds, root stocks, multiple group and individual harvesting trips.
    • Business Plan Training with Extension Agent.

    SPRING 2004
    • First Planting – Very low success rate from seed. We did not have adequate information about native seed germination.
    • Training with Becky Erickson – Missouri Department of Conservation Ecotype program. Referred to program by Grow Native! program. [Editor’s Note: For more information on Grow Native! see: http://www.grownative.org or call the Missouri Department of Agriculture at: (573) 522-4171 or (573) 522-4170.]
    • Wild Yarrow Distillations

    SUMMER 2004
    • Seed Resource scope for plant identification while in flower for later harvest of seed
    • Native, wild bergamot, pennyroyal mint harvested and distilled
    • Wild Harvest

    FALL 2004
    • Collecting trips. The project plan called for only three trips however, we actually collectively performed 22 formal collections plus additional informal collections. The collection of plant materials was more extensive than anticipated as we found it was important to locate plants, then return at a different time to harvest seeds from the same species in multiple places. Additionally, seed stratification procedures taught by Ms. Erickson were followed and stratification periods were up to 90 days.

    SPRING 2005
    • Seed stratification, greenhouse production for transplant into seed beds of purchased seed stock
    • Prepared field for transplanting divided roots. This is when we started to take off as a group. Some of our species planted in 2004 began to thrive, whereas, other species had set-backs having to do with lack of understanding and training in germination and stratification. One species failed totally as the purchased seeds were of an entirely different species, a native annual rather than a perennial.

    SUMMER 2005
    • Elder flowers harvested and distilled
    • Sponsor – Local Workshop

    Propagation Goal: Offer ten species of Native Plants available for sale, with 50 to 75 starts of each species based upon inventory status and development.

    This goal was not met as the life cycle on the native plants did not allow for maturity, and once plants were established we wished to expand our own production rather than sell the inventory. It was difficult to get some of these plants to grow from seed and once started we wish to build upon our work, rather than sell it. Furthermore, the seasonal nature of live plant marketing didn’t work well with developing a retail inventory for sale. Also, prior to the training we received from Missouri Department of Conservation’s eco-type program, we had failures in germination, stratification of native seeds. The stratification protocols for native plants are very different than normal field crops.

    The seed/root beds are functioning well, now that they are established. It took longer and was more difficult than anticipated.

    People:
    Judy Allmon – The Missouri Department of Agriculture – assistance on network and native plant marketing

    Becky Erikson – Ecotype center Missouri Department of Conservation, Native Plant Propagation Training

    Eric Jones, Institute for Culture and Ecology
    NTFP (Non-Timber Forest Products) development and networking, assisted with World Forestry Congress Participation and Poster Day. On-going support for our work in terms of coaching, brainstorming, identifying objectives and resources. [For more information on NTFP see: http://www.ifcae.org/ntfp/]

    Dr. Ajit Krishnaswamy, National Network of Forest Practioners
    Opportunity in presenting about our work and projects, attending Week In Washington.

    Dr. Mike Gold, University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry
    Participated in field day and learning exchange and worked with us in developing opportunities for presenting information on the project.

    Rachel McCoy – Information Specialist – University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry
    Wrote article on the project and field day

    Kansas City Sierra Club – Field day participants, assistance with field day, speaking engagement, developing long term relationship that may evolve into product support.

    Dr. Patricia DeAngelis – Division of Scientific Authority, US Fish and Wildlife Service –Chairperson, Medicinal Plants Working Group. [Editor’s Note: “The Medicinal Plant Working Group is part of the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA), a consortium of ten US federal agencies and more than 225 non-federal cooperators working collectively on issues associated with native plant extinction and native habitat restoration.” For details see: http://www.nps.gov/plants/medicinal/index.htm] Brainstorming, plant resources, ongoing support for growers.

    Mrs. Eve Hall and sister Ruby – These ladies were taught to harvest and use native plants by their great grandmother a Cherokee mid-wife. We spent a day in the woods with Ruby learning about their agroforestry methods for native plants. Mrs. Hall is 91 and Ruby is in her mid 80’s. They are wonderful teachers and Mrs. Hall let us harvest seeds from her property while Aunt Ruby gave us root stock.

    Mr. Prue – 3rd generation wild harvester and agroforestry grower of Ozark medicinal plants. Mr. Prue taught us through a 4-H event about his forest farming methods and shared a great deal of his traditional knowledge of the land and Ozarks. The event was planned as a result of children of group members being involved in 4-H and a desire on behalf of both our children and members to seek out additional knowledge.

    Extension Specialist Mushrush – Training on business planning
    Extension Service Training – Grafting. Five of our group attended

    RESULTS AND IMPACTS
    Community Cooperation Unexpected Benefits: The most immediate reward for this project was the development of relationships which allowed us to wisely use resources. For example, the soil testing kits allowed us to do one test that benefited each group member. We could each look at work we were each doing and compare notes as to what was working and what was not working. Each grower managed soil differently.

    Cooperating we maximize our time and energy through attending different events representing the group as a whole, while carrying information from the event back to the group. In joining groups as an organization we greatly expanded each individual’s ability to participate in other organizations.

    We inspired and supported one another having a common sense of purpose. We learned from and taught each other, sharing contacts, ideas and opportunities that strengthened us as a whole.

    Additionally, the relationship carried beyond the project to other commerce, exchange, pooling of resources and barter. This was an unanticipated result of the project and the clearest tangible success. One example I would like to share involved George Frazier constructing a greenhouse for Russel Akinson, and Russel performing plowing and other services for the Fraziers. Bob Peterson supplied greenhouse covering for Russel’s greenhouse and the Frazier greenhouse from his surplus in exchange for plants and seeds to be sold at the nursery. Another example was training we participated in as a group, which had not been planned, but occurred as a result of communication between producers.

    Another example of the success of the project as a whole was the way in which we collected native plant material for each other. Several members would go on a harvesting expedition and those growers who could not go on that particular trip still received plant materials for future propagation, as we knew who wanted to grow which plants and collected resources for each other.

    An additional unanticipated outcome was community interest and changes in behavior. Other local farmers stopped bush hogging certain native species in an effort to help with native plant resources. Education as to the importance of certain species created a willingness to adopt different land management protocols. People began to come to us asking for help in identifying species. One fairly frequent comment was “you just don’t see that plant the way you use to.” Another favorite quote was, “grandma’s farm use to have that and I forgot about it.”

    Species Established: We have established propagation eco-type seed and root stock resources native species, including: two species of Echinacea, Golden Seal, Passion Flower, Wild Indigo, Blue Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Wild Quinine, New Jersey Tea, Wild Bergamot, Frosted Mountain Mint and Pleurisy Root. While our original goal was to offer species for sale, growers retained most plant resources to invest in further propagation. Additionally, we each have plant material resources for additional species that are not included in the list of produced species, e.g. Cane, several species of Milkweed, Boodroot, Crane Bill, Whahoo.

    Challenges and Redirection: As mentioned, we were challenged on multiple levels. Our first soils were inadequate. We subsequently brought in close to 20 truck loads of material, including sand, local aged manure, decomposed sawdust. These were mixed with our first soils and the result was excellent. However, we lost critical time. Additionally, we attempted to just plant native seeds collected during field work. The training we received from the Missouri Department of Conservation created the need for starting in seed flats in a greenhouse environment, then transplanting into the seed root beds. While multiple fields had been prepared for production, this was premature as one year of growth was necessary for the plants to seed or be available for root production. While one of the chief benefits of producing native eco-type seeds is limited inputs, starting from seed and transplanting into beds is much more effective than planting seeds and depending upon the environment to create all the conditions for successful germination. Thus, we encountered unplanned expenses in this method of growing. However, we are now ready to transplant into production fields, anticipating that no additional soil improvements are needed.

    Distillation and Value Added Production: Certain herb parts were collected and distilled for value-added products. Traditionally, the term herb refers to the above ground part of the plant. These species include cedar, penny royal, common wild mints, horse mint, and wild bergamot. The oils were used to develop several value added proto-types for future consideration. Some oils were extracted and used for native plant soap production, with highly successful results.

    The value added potential from distillation remains. However, greater plant resources are needed to make the extraction and marketing cost-effective. The project allowed us to experiment and learn about distillation processes on a small scale in order to gain knowledge and experience, without wasting resources. In working on small scale, we were able to try different types of distillation processes for different plant species which could not have been accomplished on a larger scale due to the manpower needed to harvest. When giving presentations about the project, most notable Burr Oak for NNFP, we found people were eager to purchase the items that we had created. In terms of distillation, we gained many skills and a great deal of knowledge as there are few informational resources available. A few examples included: making floral waters via distillation for hydrosols, freezing plant materials to break down cellular structure to increase yield and expand value added production time and storage methods which both hindered and helped retain oils.

    Bob’s Garden: Bob Peterson was stellar in his commitment to the work. Bob spent in excess of $20,000.00 establishing water gardens, a retail outlet, purchased three greenhouses, obtained training, engaged his family and became known as a local native plant expert. Bob is working to expand the seed bed production to 32 additional beds. He purchased books, read, learned protocols for germination and in short, kept us all on our toes. While we each did not have the same resources to invest, we all gained from Bob’s hard work. He is a great inspiration and motivator to which we say, “for any group project – find ‘a Bob’”. Bob opened his nursery, Bob’s Garden in the spring of 2005. Bob has a room full of seeds he has collected during the course of this project and the infra-structure established to become our retail anchor in native plant distribution in the coming years.

    Environmental Benefits: Three major trash dumps/heaps were removed and areas reclaimed for field production. These were areas on steeper sides of our farms which had historically been used to burn and dump household trash. These areas are now prepared for long term propagation of the native plants. Through root division we can multiply these species and place them in areas that have been prepared.

    OUTREACH
    Dissemination of Findings: Information about the project was disseminated through multiple venues. These included:

    2003
    Poster Day – World Forestry Congress Quebec, Canada

    February 2004
    Audubon Society Meeting Rolla, Missouri – short presentation

    June 2004
    NNFP’s Week in Washington [Editor’s Note: “The National Network of Forest Practitioners hosts an annual National Community-Based Forestry Week in Washington workshop. “This workshop is designed to build capacity among forest practitioners to effectively participate in the national policy dialogue.” For information on NNFP, see: www.nnfp.org]
    Presentation Washington, D.C. approx. 125 over 4 days event
    USDA Forest Service – (approx. 70 staff people – 10 minute presentation on project)
    Meetings with Senator Kit Bond’s staff, (apx. 5)
    Natural Resource Conservation Service meeting (approx. 25)
    American Forests and the Pinchot Institute, providing project information and flyers about the project.

    August 2004
    National Association of Nut Growers Annual Meetings, flyers – general discussion through participation of event. (approx. 45)

    Table Display – Texas County Fair (approx. attendees 2500)

    April 2005
    Field Day Ozark Forest Mushroom and UMC (approx. 60)
    Display and discussion with participants
    Baker Creek Spring Festival – Display and Marketing (approx. 3000)
    E.P.A. Using Phyto-chemicalsConference – Display and participation (approx. 200)

    May 2005
    Presentation – Kansas City Sierra Club (approx. 45)

    July 2005
    Field Day – Please see program and participant list together with UMC article

    September 2005
    Burr Oak, Ohio Sept 7 – 10
    Presentation – National Network of Forest Practioners – Wild Crops (approx. 125)

    November 2005
    Federal Plant Conservation Alliance Meeting – St. Louis, Missouri
    Poster and Display (approx. 60)
    National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference in Columbia, Missouri presentation (approx. 40)
    Missouri Native Seed Association – Meeting – attended

    2006
    We have also been asked to present at:
    • Ozark Regional Forestry Forum,
    • Missouri Organic Association Annual Meeting
    • National SARE Conference in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
    • The Annual Meeting of the Missouri Farmer’s Union

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.