Tree crops and their potential, as long-lived perennial systems, are part of the genesis of the permaculture concept—“permanent agriculture” that would not degrade soils and that would mesh seamlessly with natural systems. This genius, like much else in the permaculture toolbox and design approach, is akin to indigenous systems throughout the world: those “farmers of 40 centuries” and earlier, who managed to support their societies without depleting topsoil. So what’s new here? Well, it turns out quite a bit. Steve Gabriel has written a comprehensive treatment of silvopasture, one of the five generally recognized approaches to agroforestry: alley cropping, forest farming, riparian forest buffers, silvopasture, and windbreaks.
Tree crops in the form of classical orchards become multi-story cropping systems in forest farming, forest gardening, or some forms of agroforestry. Silvopasture goes a step further, by bringing animals into the picture. Animals are an essential part of silvopasture—the “pasture” part of the name implies grazing animals.
Silvopasture presents the potential of designed silvopastural systems, but it doesn’t over-promise. The perils of grazing, and the tendencies of various animals (from chickens to goats) to over-burden the system are discussed at length with refreshing frankness. 2018. 320 pp. Paperback.