New Forest Farm is a diverse Restoration Agriculture research site in the Driftless Area of Southwestern Wisconsin.
Founded and stewarded by the Shepard family for over 20 years, the land is one of the country’s most ambitious large-scale conversions of former degraded corn farm into a perennial agricultural ecosystem.
New Forest Farm, located in Viola, Wisconsin, was once a worn-out rowcrop farm and has since become a 106-acre showcase commercial-scale perennial agricultural operation. It is considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States. The farming system layout was founded on Shepard’s innovations in managing the runoff distribution, retention and control of water throughout the property. Next they implemented adaptive mass-selection breeding select perennial crops based off plant families abundant amongst the oak savanna, successional brushland, and eastern woodlands ecotypes that constituted the region prior to commercial agriculture.
With the water management infrastructure in place, trees, shrubs, vines, canes, grasses, forbs and fungi were planted in likeness to their respective ecological niches as well as organized to optimize efficiency in harvesting and management. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, and apples are the primary woody crops. Various ongoing tree crops research sites are nested about the farm as well, and are an important feature in his adaptive, resilient restoration agriculture system.
New Forest Farm
New Forest Farm is a planned conversion of a typical row-crops grain farm into a commercial-scale, perennial agricultural ecosystem using oak savanna, successional brushland and eastern woodlands as the ecological models.
Overall, the land attempts to mimic the oak savanna biome. Trees, shrubs, vines, canes, perennial plants and fungi are planted in association with one another to produce food, fuel, medicines, and beauty. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, apples, and elderberries are the primary woody crops, and are planted along a keyline™-inspired water management pattern.
Between the tree crops, the grassy alleys are often grazed by cows, pigs, turkeys, sheep, pigs or chickens. These systems are building soil, retaining water, sequestering carbon, diversifying habitat, and cultivating the human being and our ecology.
The farm is entirely solar and wind powered and farm equipment has the capacity to be powered with locally produced biofuels that are not taken from the human food chain.
Come witness and learn from this twenty year old large scale perennial polyculture experiment!
Tour the Farm
Agroforestry Tour of New Forest Farm with Mark Shepard
Calling all conservationists, farmers, hunters, gardeners, chefs, permies, biology researchers and inquisitive onlookers. Join us for a full 3-hours of immersion into one of the most famous agroforestry permaculture systems on the planet! Amongst the combinations of our innovative systems for water management, plants and animals, there is loads to experience for whichever lenses you’re looking through!
This is start of tree crops harvesting season where you’ll begin to see hazelnuts from mid-August through September, followed by chestnuts, walnuts, apples, pears, grapes and more! You will also be able to visit our agroforestry “land managers”, our friendly forest-raised pigs, jurassic chickens and guinea hens.
We hope that you’ll find that living amongst your food forest is a way of life that you might enjoy.
Come equipped for all weather. The weather at this time of year is usually beautiful, but make sure you have on hand rain gear, sun gear and comfortable waterproof boots. There is a lot to see, so please arrive at this event on time, as we’ll be getting started promptly at your scheduled time.
Space is limited. Maximum number of attendees is 6 adults per tour. Submit a comment below for more information about this tour and register with the link below.
Register here and contact us to schedule the date and time of your tour.
Meet at the cydery building where the tour will begin. It has a big green metal roof and is visible from County Highway I on the N side of the street.
The experience could include sunny skies, rainfall, and walking across hilly terrain. Being mindful of possible sudden changes in weather. It is wise to come prepared wearing long pants, close-toes hiking shoes, rain gear, and sun protection. Be sure to carry along your own water and snacks.
Short overnight stays are also possible for those traveling long distances or who wish to stay a bit longer. Please be prepared to sleep outdoors and contribute to collective food & work if needed.