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Restoration Agriculture

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  674 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Around the globe most people get their calories from annual agriculture - plants that grow fast for one season, produce lots of seeds, then die. Every single human society that has relied on annual crops for staple foods has collapsed. Restoration Agriculture explains how we can have all of the benefits of natural, perennial ecosystems and create agricultural systems that ...more
Paperback, 313 pages
Published August 16th 2013 by Acres USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Mark Shepard's presentation at 2013's MOSES organic farming conference was among the most influential, rousing, and revelatory moments of the past few years of my life. He said nothing I didn't already know, but he put all the pieces together in a way that seemed new and showed me that the oft-discussed but rarely practiced ideal of a perennial polyculture could feed people really, really well, and restore ecosystem functions, and be a phenomenally successful restoration ecology project. A farm ...more
Sep 25, 2013 rated it liked it
I hate to be the nay-sayer to this book. Mark Shepard has a fascinating story to tell about his 106-acre food forest. Unfortunately, he doesn't tell it! Instead, he titillates us with tidbits of hands-on information (which might cover about 20 pages), then rants and regurgitates for the rest of the book.

Luckily for you, I've written a lunchtime series with those useful tidbits in it, so you don't have to go gold-mining in this book.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the discussion of what crops could be used for perennial agriculture in temperate regions. The author, however, fails to address the problem of the huge amounts of physical labor necessary to harvest the diverse fruit, nut, and root crops that would replace the fields of corn, wheat, and beans that commercial farmers are now producing.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous book about permaculture principals and why a perennial, polyculture farm is more productive and healthier than an annual, monoculture counterpart. The descriptions are clear and concise.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every year there are more and more books published about Permaculture. Some of these new books show lovely example sites and explain a hundred inspiring techniques for using Permaculture. It's getting harder to tell which books are worth your time to read, though. Restoration Agriculture stands out in this ever increasingly crowded topic area. I've yet to read such a easy and exciting treatise that really addresses the "Why" of Permaculture like Restoration Agriculture.

Readers are treated to ch
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is an inspirational book - not only does Mark explain restoration agriculture but only offers methods to practically set up such a system.
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is, so far, the best collection of permaculture philosophy that points toward a specific system of planting that yields food and replenishes the soil. Most of the permaculture books I've read are either broadly preaching to a set of sparkly principles or a reference book lacking a compelling narrative, but this manages to do both. It doesn't get into the daily details of maintaining such a system, but the point is also to develop plants that survive neglect, which is cool for this lazy, laz ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a permaculture resource book that is up-to-date, inspirational, informative and transformational. Mark makes the case for a new vision of perennial agriculture as a way for humans to live sustainably on the planet. And it's full of practical discussions of the reality of annual/tillage farming as compared to his own data from his demonstration perennial-based farm. ...more
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Farm outside Madison, bucket list to visit
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is a great introduction to permaculture. Mr. Shepard is passionate about the topic and provides a very good foundation for readers who are new to these ideas. He weaves historic case studies into this primer section that improve your understanding of the current state of our planet.

That state is at best perilous. At worst some might say hopeless.

Restoration Agriculture is the permaculture concept applied to both repair the degradation that we have done as well as turn our local envir
Linda Rose
Apr 22, 2020 rated it liked it
It seems to me that the author (a farmer) is mostly using his own experience as the basis for this book. If there was a bibliography or any references I was unable to hear them in the audio version.
Key take aways:

Soil erosion and depletion has changed history.

To be a sucessful farm family, one person must work the farm and their spouse should commute to a job.

Hazelnut trees can be grown in a shrub like shape.

Viruses take DNA out of plants they infect and use it to replicate more viruses.

You hav
Brian Schuster
Feb 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Mark has a less-industrial style of growing food in forest orchards with multiple species mixed together in one integrated ecosystem, however he uses too much of the book going over general environmental science concepts. It would be great to see more information about the farming equipment and site layouts he uses, as well as weeding and harvesting techniques.

He makes up for the wordiness at the end with a few nice photos.

It was fascinating to learn that hazelnut is one of the highest oil-produ
Aaron Benarroch
Jun 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I love people challenging the status quo. There is an immense amount of work here; however, I do some critical points too. Shepard does not provide sources of what he claims. He makes sound arguments, but being unable to check the literature is, to me, a strong minus. There are some contradictions too: just to bring up an example, after having starkly insisted on how beneficial his STUN approach is, he just admits "but well, neither you want to lose the entirety of your trees, so, care of them a ...more
Jack Bradley
Good reading and thought provoking, but to believe mankind will adopt the teachings is akin to everyone reading the Bible and practicing it’s teachings to create the peace one dreams of. Each individual will need to find the , joy, peace, love, and right actions within themselves, which will remove greed, hate, and ego based minds before the utopian plans set out in this book become anywhere close to being achieved.

I guess my title says it all. Reading it can leave a pleasant feeling as can the
Bernard Lavallée
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Even though this book was written with farmers in mind, I think that anybody with an interest in food, ecology and agriculture will love this practical book about what the author calls restoration agriculture. In a sentence, it's a way to produce food while mimicking ecosystems to work with nature instead of against it.

My only negative comment would be the part about nutrition (I'm a dietitian). There were a few times where it showed the author did not have expertise in this subject. For exampl
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was the first book I ever read on permaculture, and it's still the best -- although I'm not an expert or a farmer myself, so take that with a grain of salt.

I read this after seeing firsthand how Kenyan farmers were using agroforestry to increase their yields by planting trees in their fields to protect them from the sun and to infuse nitrogen and carbon into the soil -- which had, in many cases, eliminated the need for petrochemical fertilizers and was also turning their farms in carbon spo
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
So much here to think about. Educational as well as practical. Shepard does the math and proves that perennial agriculture can produce enough food as efficiently and more cost effectively than monocrop farming. In addition, acres and acres of soybeans or corn destroys soil and biodiversity and increases pests and disease while restoration agriculture restores ecological systems, creates biodiversity and controls pests and disease. Shepherd has been farming for close to two decades using a perenn ...more
Eileen Breseman
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Read for an understanding of how food forests work, the idea of Permaculture crops vs our national behavior of monocrop/annuals in vast swaths such as the corn belt of the midwest.
How not only the land and the microbes do better, how the crops are less susceptible to disease and blights, but the human effort is lessened once we make a concerted effort to change to this practice.
I read carefully for the first few chapters, but skimmed through the rest. It's a bit too detailed for what I was look
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nature
This book has some really great information in it and is obviously the culmination of a lifetime of dedicated work. There are some tremendous ideas that are described, demonstrated, and ways to put them into practice. Unfortunately the author felt a need to spend a lot of pages attacking big Agriculture and defending his lack of credentials. The writing throughout is clear but the tendency to start preaching is a negative to the book and would have earned a poor rating from me but the informatio ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably did not like the book very much because I'm an agri-business specialist. It is not because I don't want to learn more about permaculture and restoration agriculture-- that is exactly the reason why I bought the book. Perhaps, because I have both a science and business orientation and experience, when I hear wonderful ideas about agricultural and rural living (I live on a farm), I want examples and details. Otherwise, they feel too "pie in the sky". Although examples and pioneers of pe ...more
Hazel Bright
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really innovative and informative. I have bored my husband with little tidbits from this book for a week now, while I was reading it, and after finishing it. Shepard's view of the farm as a mini-ecosystem tended by its human caretakers really resonated with me. From using fruit trees as grape arbors to growing mushrooms on discarded prunings, Shepard's permaculture, perennial-dominated farming technique seems viable and sensible. It was cited in Farming for the Long Haul by Michael Foley, and se ...more
Hannah Stowe
May 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was really impressed by the emphasis on food sustainability in this book. I've read lots about the dangers of the current system of industrial agriculture and such but very rarely have I seen a person put forth a viable solution that is literally better in every way (except in how it would affect the capitalistic norm). Read it! I wanna grow hazelnuts now! and chestnuts! I love the idea of eating more native, sustainable, and perennial foods! ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great introduction to agroforestry with a permaculture flavor. Shepard makes a great case for the necessity of nothing short of an agriculture revolution. I was hoping for more practical details about how to actually do my part on my property. But he does point the reader in the right direction and mentions where to find more info. The writing is crisp and personal.
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lots of good detail. Straddles a bit of a strange line seemingly between actually being a farming manual and a sort of intro to permaculture/restoration ag for the layperson. It is a bit in the weeds for the latter and a bit too broad for the former I think. But it is still a cool book with a lot of insight.
Jan Haley Brightwood
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Everyone - sincerely, I mean it - everyone who cares about the future of humanity on this planet should read or listen to this book. It sets the scene of how reliance on annual crops in monocultures is depleting our planet and enslaving us, then lays out how shifting instead to managed, nature-inspired polyculture woodland ecologies will restore habitat and set us free. I loved it :-)
Raoul Zawadzki
Apr 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A total eye opener.

The system explained by Mark Shepard in this book is genius. Everyone wanting to produce sustainable food in harmony with the environment should read this book. Everything is clear, and well written, I couldn't stop reading. Now I want to dig holes and plant trees everywhere...Thank you.
Logan Streondj
Jun 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It's a good permaculture book. It focuses largely on north American flora and old world fauna, describing a silvipasture system, which I guess makes sense on the oversized farm lots which are typical of modern 'small farms'. He also assumes people will continue to live in cities, which I do not believe is viable on a large scale. But yeah is good enough for what it is. ...more
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mark Shepard is a passionate voice for the development of diverse, resilient, perennial, polyculture systems. While he is prone to being rather dramatic in his writing, the underlying concepts he presents have the potential to revolutionize agriculture if broadly applied.
Pamela Hale
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent book! Our entire method of feeding ourselves should be completely changed. Something that has always bothered me is the prevailing view that it's useless to plant trees because they won't be mature in our lifetime. What a completely selfish view! ...more
Amber Powell
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Easy to follow and interesting read. Some parts lulled a bit, but that’s to be expected in any nonfiction manual-esque book. Overall, held my attention and inspired me to go out and try my hand at restoration ag.
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19 likes · 3 comments
“Can these systems produce enough total calories, enough carbohydrates, proteins and oils to feed the human race? Over and over again this issue is brought up and, in my opinion, is somewhat of a red herring. “This all sounds good, but we’ve got to feed the world.” I agree with this sentiment and hereby turn the question back onto the asker and state that the current agricultural system is not feeding the world! Not only is annual agriculture not feeding the rapidly increasing population, it is destroying ecosystems worldwide while doing so. The current agricultural system is dependent on extraordinary labor or cheap fossil fuels or increasingly scarce mined inputs in order to not feed the world. It contributes to the greenhouse effect and the inequitable distribution of wealth worldwide while still not feeding the world.” 0 likes
“The nation and most of the rest of the world is chasing a technofix instead of adjusting to ecological/economic reality.” 0 likes
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