Mark Shepard’s insistence on returning the land to its “natural form and function,” while still producing food drew me to his style of permaculture. Regarding his 106-acre perennial farm, he made the point that, “if we were to disappear tomorrow, this land would continue producing food for thousands of years.” It blew my mind. Inspired by Shepard, I called my parents and asked to try permaculture in our yard at home. I said, “It’s like our regular garden, but instead we plant only perennials.” I went on to share my limited knowledge about topsoil disruption, pesticide use, and the productivity of the permaculture farms from the movie. Amazingly, they didn’t say no.
My parents have agreed to plant five new food-producing perennials before summer, on the condition that they are native to North Carolina. As the financial share-holders and creators of my life, they generously delegated the research of indigenous plants to me. The list below shows my preliminary findings, all of which are native to the piedmont region and courtesy of the North Carolina Native Plant Society.
- Pecan tree (nut-producing)
- Shagbark hickory tree (nut-producing)
- Beech tree (nut-producing)
- Hazel tree (nut-producing)
- Black tupelo tree (for honey)
- Persimmon tree
- Black cherry tree
- Pawpaw tree
- Wild strawberries
- Low bush blueberries
- Fox Grapes
I figure the best way to convince my parents to continue down a permaculture path even long after I’ve grown up and moved more than thirty minutes from home, is to grow what they like. While I am incredibly intrigued by pawpaws, those might best be tested further down the road. I’ll start with persimmons, black cherries, and plums. They are familiar and I’ve seen them grown in Raleigh without difficulty. Additionally, we already have three pecan trees in our backyard, so hazelnuts would be an interesting addition.
I also think that with the right amount of coercion, I can get my dad to agree to put a bee hive in our yard if I also put a black tupelo tree, given his affinity for Tupelo Honey. While the bees may not actually produce pure Tupelo Honey due to the other nectar sources, my dad doesn’t need to know that. It would kill two birds with one stone: planting a perennial, and increasing biodiversity in our yard.
Persimmons, black cherries, plums, hazelnuts, and black tupelo. Those are my five as they stand now. I am in awe of Mark Shepard’s farm, and hope to create a sliver of the good work he does there in my own backyard.