Off to greener pastures

This month Jonathan, Megan, and Jesse headed off to a farm in Ithaca New York. We already miss them – who is going to help us eat all that fruit? We’re proud and happy to see them take this next big step towards their farm dream.

Jonathan and I worked together to get the garden ready for their departure, including simplifying some beds, moving some big trees around, and dismantling the aquaponics system.

Meanwhile friends, our new neighbor Roxy, and volunteers are keeping are garden looking lovely. We have new chicks, some exciting new spice plants (spicebush, Carolina allspice, sansho pepper, and mioga ginger among others), and are off to a great start.

Paradise Lot evolves, Food Forest Farm is moving
by Jonathan Bates

I’m learning that one of the assurances in life is that impermanence is a part of the natural flow of things. We already miss our close friends the Toensmeiers. The years of home gardening together was life changing and magnificent. We look forward to frequent visits back to Holyoke to be with them and help eat the harvest 🙂 For those customers, acquaintances and readers who are learning of our move for the first time in this blog post, Paradise Lot is evolving, and Food Forest Farm will relocate to NY.

Let me explain… In terms of the plant nursery that was born at Paradise Lot, Food Forest Farm fall plant orders will sill go out starting October 2017. And future plant sales will continue from our new food forest in NY after we transition all plants from our production nursery in Massachusetts.

So, although there are big changes a foot, and Food Forest Farm is starting a new chapter, we are excited about the opportunities and adventures ahead. Food Forest Farm is looking forward to these future potentialities and partnerships: digging deeper into broad-acre silvopasture and agroforestry; soil carbon and climate change solutions; building our network in New York including these awesome folks:;;

If you’d like to contact Jonathan and discuss opportunities for building relationships and connections in our New York home we’d love to hear from you! As for visiting Paradise Lot in Holyoke you should attend one of our educational opportunities this summer and fall: Garden Tours, Workshops, and Garden Help Days.


Carbon Farming with Eric Toensmeier on National Public Radio


Hey you all. If you haven’t heard this one yet, you should it’s great! The Paradise Lot garden is the story with a carbon farming twist. Nice job Eric!

Carbon Farming at Paradise Lot National Public Radio interview link

Call to Action: hardy kiwi may be illegal to grow in New England


The Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG) has voted to designate a locally-produced species of kiwifruit (Actinidia arguta; a.k.a. the kiwiberry) as “likely invasive” in the state and has petitioned to have it added to the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources (MADR) statewide prohibited plant list – on questionable grounds, according to Dr. Iago Hale, assistant professor of specialty crop improvement at the University of New Hampshire. Such an unprecedented listing of a commercialized fruit crop will, says Hale, prohibit Massachusetts farmers from growing kiwiberries, a low-input perennial specialty crop with a profit value exceeding $20,000/acre; and will deny Massachusetts residents the ability to buy kiwiberries from their grocery stores and farmers’ markets, even if the berries are produced out of state. Much of the evidence provided by MIPAG in this case is anecdotal or speculative, says Hale, adding that in many instances the claims are false.

Before the January 10 deadline (5 PM), please email Taryn LaScola ( and request that MDAR not include the kiwiberry on its list of prohibited plants. Or, even better, show up in Westborough to give oral testimony in person: link for Call to action letter, and more details about giving oral testimony:


1) Genetic testing to determine whether individually dispersed naturalized growth of kiwi vine is speculative, due to the fact that many of these vines were likely planted over 100 years ago and at that time all vines planted as ornamentals where seedlings, thus they cannot be tracked back to known varieties, thus they are incorrectly assumed to be wildlife dispersed seedlings and labelled “invasive”.

2) If this legislation was in place 200 years ago, apples would have been banned, and the entire New England apple and cider industry would be illegal. Sorry Johnny Appleseed.

3) Invasive Biology is a Pseudo Science.

4) People will grow and eat hardy kiwi despite the passing of this legislation.

5) The time, effort and resources spent on disparaging this plant, and the people growing it, is wasting all of our time. Global Climate Chaos won’t wait for confused people to wake up and realize their ignorance. 

6) If hardy kiwi would have been growing during the Great Depression, millions of people in cold temperate climates would have had access to an easy to grow, delicious fall fruit easily stored and preserved, filled with life giving nutrients including more vitamin C then oranges. Don’t kid yourself that socio-economic food scarcity is a thing of the past.

7) Most of the Northeastern temperate climate forest biome is a patchwork of human created novel ecosystems. Actinidia arguta has already been established in this patchwork.

8) If hardy kiwi is banned in Massachusetts there is a reasonable probability that all New England States will also restrict the cultivation and sale of this fruit.

9) As of 2017 Stephen Breyer at Tripple Brook Farm has a 30 year old kiwi vine that is at the top of a 100 year old maple tree. A wild concord grape is smothering the kiwi vine and killing it. Grape vines are sooooo invasive 😉

10) Based on geologic fossil evidence, Actinidia were once native to North America and likely were present on various parts of the continent for nearly 80 million years (Late Cretaceous into the Tertiary Period).  Fossilized Actinidia seeds have been identified in north-central Oregon (Dillhoff et al., 2009) and in Arctic Canada (Matthews and Ovenden, 1990), where the vines grew in a forest composed of pines, spruce, redwood, and tamarack, at a paleolatitude of 74 degrees (well north of the Arctic Circle).  Changes in climate and repeated glaciations during the Late Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene eliminated Actinidia and many other plants from North America.

DON’T LET OUR EYES BE DECEIVED BY HISTORY (pictures of the most cited “invasive” hardy kiwi vine, the vine that started it all):


kennedy park hardy kiwi.jpg
Same hardy kiwi vine 100 years later? Kennedy Park, Lenox MA (guess they forgot to prune this one).

Global Climate Change, Food Trees, and the Mushrooms That Orchestrate It All

Six years ago a squirrel planted a sweet chestnut seed in my plant nursery and forgot about it. The tree grew, and grew and grew. Today I harvested the first nuts from that tree (and roasted them for dinner, mmm yum). While harvesting the nuts I noticed a few puffball mushrooms growing on the soil scattered around the tree. I didn’t think anything about them, other than they were some of the first mushrooms I’d seen since establishing the perennial nursery many years ago. Later that day I reconsidered what I had seen, because…

Read more here…

Fruit Tasting and Food Forest Design Workshop

Ever eaten a paw paw or American persimmon? Here is your chance!


Come join us for an exciting event Saturday, October 15, we will be touring Paradise Lot learning about the garden and how it was designed, and eating the fruit that is in season. In the afternoon we will visit Tripple Brook Farm for more fruit and nut tasting and a tour of Steve’s wonderful and diverse landscape, seeing mature kiwi vines, chestnuts, hazelnuts, paw paws, apples, persimmons and more!


Soil Health and Mineral Improvement Persimmon Polyculture

paradise lot persimmon patch soil improvement

We’ve been getting some requests for soil results over the years. Particularly since we’ve been reporting our successes. Here is one area of focus in the garden that seems to be exceeding our expectations (and is a good representation of the soil on the site in general).

Notice that the exchange capacity has increased, along with the humus. This allows the biogeochemistry of the soil to better manage and store minerals — like a large well run library. As these numbers go up, so does the resilience of the system.

Also notice that boron has increased since we broadcast a custom mineral blend two years ago, created by Forster Soil Management. And yet, many of the levels of trace minerals still need to be improved, which we plan to do with targeted foliar applications.

Healthy soil = Healthy plants = Healthy people

Crops to Stop Climate Change: A Global Wiki

Support the Crops to Stop Climate Change campaign

Help Apios Institute develop a global wiki of perennial crops & polycultures to combat climate change!

The goal is to transform agriculture while providing food and other products through the creation of agroecosystems that function at the highest level of biodiversity and ecosystem services – the “epitome of sustainability.”

Multistrata agroforestry systems go by many names – food forests, edible forest gardens, tropical homegardens, and more. What they have in common is their structure – multiple layers of vegetation, typically one or more layers of trees, with further layers of shrubs, vines, herbaceous species, and often fungi and/or livestock.

These “agroforests” can be at a tiny backyard scale or big enough to cover 50-70% of entire islands. Contemporary commercial examples include coffee and cacao under nitrogen-fixing shade trees. Multistrata systems go back 13,000 years in Java, and today are practiced on an estimated 100 million hectares globally (247 million acres), mostly in the humid tropics. Home-scale systems appear quite viable in cold climates, but models of commercial cold-climate hard to find – in deed development of such systems is one of our goals.

Scientists have called tropical homegardens “the epitome of sustainability” and have identified many benefits of these systems:

  • Multistrata agroforestry systems sequester outstanding amounts of carbon – some as high as 40 tons per hectare per year (t/ha/yr). This compares extremely favorably with often-recommended carbon farming strategies like no-till (0.3 t/ha), “regenerative organic” annual crops (2.3), and managed grazing (0.3). Some even sequester carbon at faster rates than adjacent natural forest!
  • Tropical homegardens have the highest levels of biodiversity of any human land management technique. For example, Mesoamerican homegardens average 348 species per hectares (149/acre).
  • In some cases these systems produce more food than monocultures – sometimes much more! For example, in Brazilian oil palm monocultures, oil yields average 5 t/ha. Polycultures of oil palm, with the addition of fruiting vines, nitrogen-fixing trees, and other elements, produce 8.7 t/ha of oil, plus the additional products!

The very complexity that makes these systems so fantastic makes them hard to study, and greatly slows their spread. Outside of the tropics models are few and far between.

Jonathan Bates and Eric Toensmeier, the creators of Paradise Lot are volunteers on the board of the Apios Institute and we believe this technology will help farmers and communities around the world gain knowledge and implement these systems faster.

Support the Crops to Stop Climate Change campaign