Farming on the Wild Side

Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
(SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook


Tom and Maud Powell and Michael Moss, Sustainable Farmers, Jackson County, OR.
Technical advisor: Tim Franklin, Jacksonville, OR.
Curriculum advisor: Peter O’Connell, Jacksonville, OR.
Web advisor: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, MT.
Published 2007
Updated 2010


Farming on the Wild Side

Learning Objectives
The learner will:

  • Learn about different approaches to ecological farming, and give examples
  • Understand ecological processes underlying ecological farming approaches
  • Understand attributes of natural systems farming, agroforestry systems, and wild farming approaches


Ecological Farming Systems

  • Farming In Nature’s Image: Natural Systems Farming
    • Home Gardens / Forest Gardens
    • Land Institute & Perennial Polyculture
    • Rotational / Mixed Species Grazing Systems (Savory & others)
  • Agroforestry / Silvopastoralism / Agrosilvopastoralism
    • Agroforestry: growing herbaceous crops and tree crops together
    • Silvopastoralism: raising livestock and tree crops together
    • Agrosilvopastoralism: livestock, crops and trees
    • Agroforestry System Attributes
      • Deep nutrient Cycling
      • Enhanced wildlife / livestock habitat
      • Increased biotic Diversity
      • Increased crop diversity
    • Examples:
      • Windbreaks / hedgerows
      • Live fences
      • Alley cropping
      • Field / Pasture Trees (Acacia albida, Oregon white oak)
      • Taungya
      • Forest Gardens
  • Wild Farming: Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches
    • Importance of Biodiversity
      • Wild Farming Practices
      • Water Conservation
      • Soil Conservation
      • Soil Fertility Management
      • Livestock Management
    • Biodiversity: Incorporating Natural Areas on the Farm Practices
      • Riparian Areas
      • Woodlands
      • Hedgerows
      • Beetle Banks
      • Field Margins
    • Biodiversity Within Farmed Areas
      • Cover Crops
      • Intercropping
      • Strip Cropping
      • Insectaries & Pest Strips
      • Low or no till
      • Alternate Mowing


Ecological Processes in Healthy Agroecosystems

  • Nutrient Cycling (deeper, balanced cycles)
  • Hydrology (enhanced infiltration, soil moisture storage)
  • Energetics (enhanced capture of solar and water inputs)
  • Soil Conservation and Building
  • Predator – Prey Relationships (beneficial insects, birds, mammals for pest control)
  • Disturbance (herbivory)



  • How would you mimic a prairie in an agroecosystem? A savannah? A forest?
  • Describe the ecological processes functioning in an agroforestry system.
  • Why is biodiversity important on a farm?
  • Describe wildlife-friendly elements in a farming system.



Imhoff, Daniel. 2003. Farming With the Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches.
Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA. 182 pp.

Jackson, Dana, and Laura Jackson. 2002. The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food
Systems with Ecosystems. Island Press, Washington, DC. 295pp.

Soule, J. and J. Piper. 1993. Farming in Nature’s Image: An Ecological Approach to Agriculture.
Island Press, Washington, DC. 305pp.

Wild Farm Alliance


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