Farm Intern Field Trip to New Forest Farm

On Tuesday, after a scant four hours of working in the field, we loaded up the entire farm crew and headed off to Viola, WI to visit New Forest Farm for our annual field trip.  With Jake at the helm of a sixteen passenger rental van, two different sets of printed directions (apparently farming has taught Jake to hedge his bets) and a crew eager for a change of scenery, we snaked our way eighty miles northwest through the lush hills and valleys of the driftless region to our destination.

New Forest Farm is, well, a farm by name and in the sense that is dedicated to producing and managing food crops for human consumption.  However, it looks nothing like any farm I have ever seen before.  New Forest Farm is a sprawling 106-acre commercial scale perennial agricultural ecosystem.  Owner, farmer, and author, Mark Shepherd, calls his unique and innovative approach to farming and land stewardship, “restoration agriculture”.   Restoration agriculture uses permaculture techniques for land and water management in combination with Mark’s STUN (sheer, total, utter neglect) approach to plant care to create a truly remarkable system with few inputs and many outputs, including: chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples, grapes, raspberries, currants, squash, peppers, pigs, and chickens.

After a full three hour tour, I believe we ended with more questions than we started.  However, I think it’s safe to say that our previously existing paradigms of what a farm is and what a farm can be have been permanently shifted for the better.

If you would like to learn more about Mark Shepherd’s New Forest Farm, check out his book, Restoration Agriculture.

- Garrett Peterson, Assistant Farm Manager


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