After the last few weeks of focus on the intricacies of Holistic management and building community in agriculture, I wanted to go back to some technical information on specific farming enterprises.
One of the most common questions I get asked from listeners and clients who are starting new projects is about where to begin. Those of you familiar with permaculture will know of the common advice to live and wait a full year on your site before beginning to design and implement your vision. This time of observation and information gathering can be essential to avoiding common mistakes and preparing your place and design adequately to begin, but it can be frustrating for many people who just want to get started. For that reason, one of the first projects I encourage people to do is to start a plant nursery. Not only will you start the long process of coaxing plants into maturity which is worth beginning as soon as possible, but you’ll also learn valuable plant care and propagation in the process. Planting your own nursery can also save you money when you eventually begin planting out your design, and if you enjoy it enough and can find a market for saplings and seedlings, you can make good money selling nursery stock as well. There are also real advantages to growing your plants in the soil and environment where they’ll live so they get the chance to acclimate rather than suffer a harsh adjustment from the heated greenhouse and chemical fertilisers so common in most plant nurseries.
In order to get a better understanding of just how easy and enjoyable it can be to start a nursery, I spoke with Akiva Silver who owns and operates Twisted Tree Farm, a homestead, nut orchard, and nursery located in Spencer, New York, where he grows around 20,000 trees per year using practices that go beyond organic. His background is in foraging, wilderness survival, and primitive skills. He has been observing nature intensively for the last 20 years, and cultivating a deep appreciation for life in that time.
This is a longer episode for this show and it’s packed with useful and practical information so I’ve split it into two episodes. This first one dives into how Akiva first began to propagate trees and his transition into making a business out of it and supporting his family by growing plants. We also get into all kinds of propagation methods and where and how to find the best materials for growing nursery stock. Next week I’ll conclude this interview by exploring how to build a business around growing the plants you love, improving your soil enough that you can eliminate fertilisers and other inputs, the maintenance and care of your nursery through the different seasons, and the sales and marketing side of the business.