The Oak Savannah

Manorun Farm is re-creating an Oak Savannah on the farm. In the spring of 2014 we planted 2,000 indigenous trees and shrubs. We also dug swales throughout our 20 acre field to capture rain water and distribute it to drier areas of the field. Our Oak Savannah is still young but it is already shaping up to be an abundant eco-system and we have enjoyed seeing the growth over the years.

What is an Oak Savannah?

The Oak Savannah is an agricultural system that produces a large and diverse range of foods. Instead of annual grain crops the focus is on perennial grasses, forages, vines, bushes and trees. So an Oak Savannah has a wide range of grass forage and also blueberry, goose berry, grapes, apple, plum, cherry, mulberry, pine, maple, black cherry, beech and oak. There are many more plant species that produce, fruit, leaf, nut and bark for a wide range of wild life, livestock and people. It is very protein rich with nuts, fruits, grasses, leaves and livestock.

Savannah's are both naturally occurring and human made. For example the indigenous people of North America burned large areas to clear out smaller trees and shrubs to open up the forest canopy and allow the growth of grasses and smaller fruit bearing trees and bushes. Typical of a savannah are large areas of grass and scattered mature trees.

The advantage of growing food using the savannah is that natural eco systems thrive. Soil fertility is built up through deep rooted plants. Large scale mono culture farming is reliant on chemical "cides" to manage pests, disease and weeds. In a savannah the balance of nature manages all of these traditional challenges to farming. Growing large amounts of grains means annual plowing and continual weed suppression. A principle of the savannah is to let nature do the work and leave the tractor in the shed.

The Oak Savannah permaculture system stacks food - with an overstory of large trees like sugar maples, beech nuts and walnuts, an understory of nut bushes, including chestnut and hazelnut and fruits including apples, pears, pawpaws and mulberries and then below that raspberries, black caps, and currants - finishing off at the lowest level with pasture for livestock. Each layer produces food in an area that would otherwise be one crop.

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