Native Plant Agriculture


What is Native Plant Agriculture?

Native Plant Agriculture (NPA) is the implementing of edible native plants as the basis of a primarily perennial agricultural system that mimics native plant communities in format. The goal of NPA is to expand native vegetation back into agricultural land to restore a significant level of biodiversity while improving human-food productivity for a changing climate and growing population.

When/if agriculture shifts to a Native Plant Perennial system, soil is conserved, more carbon is sequestered in the soil and above ground, irrigation needs decrease, fertilizer needs decrease and biodiversity increases in response to the native plant diversity. Since the plants are native, it becomes "eco-inclusive", allowing all types of native insects including pollinators, and higher life forms to co-exist. Compare this with our current agricultural system which is "eco-exclusive" primarily supporting one single species desires (humans). Any food system that isn't based in native plants is much more so eco-exclusive, as non-native plants lack the co-evolution with native insects and wildlife to support them.

Native Plant Agriculture could mitigate habitat fragmentation and habitat loss by connecting perennial native plant agricultural land to existing undeveloped habitat. The inclusion of native plants as the foundation of our ecosystem is an answer to questions about insect and pollinator decline, and sequestering carbon on cropland through perennial agriculture.

NPA Crops of the Eastern half of the U.S.

This list is limited to what we’re growing in our demonstration project.

Native Fruit Production: PawPaw Cultivars, American Persimmon Cultivars, Selected Wild Plum of Common Wild Plum (Prunus americana), Chickasaw Wild Plum (Prunus angustifolia), Quapaw Wild Plum (Prunus hortulana), Munson’s Wild Plum (Prunus munsoniana), Mexican Wild Plum (Prunus mexicana), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Ground Cherries: Physalis longifolia, Physalis pubescens, Malus coronaria (Sweet Crabapple), Aronia cultivars, Elderberry, Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia), Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca) cultivars, Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Serviceberry species (Amelanchier sp.), High-Bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), and Black Raspberry cultivars.

Native Vegetable Crops: Virginia Spiderwort and Ohio Spiderwort (Stems/leaves), Riverbank Grape (leaves/stems/tendrils), Stinging Nettle (leaves/stems), Wood Nettle (leaves/stems), Common Milkweed (Shoots, Seed Pods/Leaves) Cutleaf Coneflower (leaves), Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum), Horseweed (Leaves), Passionflower (leaves/stems/tendrils), American Linden (leaves), Red Mulberry (leaves), Amaranthus: hybridus, powellii, tuberculatus (leaves), Allium cernuum (leaves/roots), Pitseed Goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), Missouri Lambquarters (C. missouriense), River Cane (Shoots) Arundinaria gigantea, Marsh Blazing Star (Root), Prairie Blazing Star (Root), Evening Primrose (Root/Leaves), Groundnut (Apios americana - Root), Wild Potato vine (Ipomea pandurata-Root), Jerusalem Artichoke Cultivars (Root), MaxChokes (Helianthus tuberosus x Helianthus maximilliani - Root), Smilax herbacea (carrion flower-Root/Shoots), Smilax bona-nox (Roots/Shoots), Smilax rotundifolia (common greenbrier-Root/Shoots), Pasture Thistle (Cirsium discolor), Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides-Root), Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), Broadleaf Cattail-Root/shoot (Typha latifolia), American Lotus-stems/roots/leaves (Nelumbo lutea).

Native Seed/Nut Crops: Bur Oak, Red Oak, Shumard Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Shellbark Hickory, Shagbark Hickory, Sweet Pignut Hickory, Pecans, Dunstan Chestnuts (mostly native), American Hazelnuts (Corylus americana), Helianthus annus cultivars (Annual sunflower), Pitseed Goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri), Missouri Lambquarters (C. missouriense), Native Amaranth species, and Groundnut (beans).

NPA Wetland Aquaculture

Native Fish Production - Wetland Aquaculture

Meat Production in Native Plant Agriculture seeks to use the most resource efficient native livestock possible; Channel Catfish (+50% feed conversion rate) and Sunfish family fish (+50% feed conversion rate).

The fish crops will be fed primarily on invasive carp, and invasive insects such as non-native earthworms and Japanese Beetles. Carp will also be a part of the native food festivals to promote the reduction of this invasive species. Little do people know, carp are the number 1 farmed fish in the world for human consumption.

The goal of NPA Wetland Aquaculture on the farm will be not only to promote the most sustainable resource efficient meat production possible, but to create a habitat that will significantly raise the biodiversity per acre of native plant agriculture and to add the conditions needed for 3 additional NPA crops; Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), Broadleaf Cattail (Typha latifolia), and American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea).

The departure from non-native land based livestock also eliminates over half of the loss inherent in meat production. Cows convert what they eat into harvested meat at ratio of 1 to 3%, meaning 97-99% loss. Pigs; 10-11% conversion, 90-89% loss. Chicken; 13% conversion, 87% loss. Comparatively native Channel Catfish and Sunfish family fish can convert feed at over 55% efficiency, 45% loss.

This difference in efficiency is primarily because fish are cold blooded (don’t use calories to stay warm) and suspended in water (less energy needed to move or maintain position). With most of their feed derived from invasive insects and invasive animals, the biodiversity impact can become positive with eating native wetland aquaculture derived fish as your meat of choice.

Phases of Developing Our NPA Demonstration Project

Phase 1: Seed Collection and Sapling Growing (2018 fall-2019 Fall)

This phase we particularly looking for, collecting, and growing out stock for the planting phase of the project. We need to source the plants from local populations from central Indiana, to Central Ohio, and south to central Kentucky. If you'd like to contribute seed to this project see our species list for seed collection below. Note: not all species in the project will come from seed, some will come from cultivars such as Pawpaw and Persimmon. During this phase we’ll also be growing much of the plant material for the next phase (planting the farm) in our native nursery.

Phase 2: Land Purchase, Planting the Farm (2019-2020 Winter)

We’re on track for a 2019 Fall or 2020 Spring land purchase of 6-10 acres. Many of the crops will take 1-2 years to mature, some 5-7 years, and the hickories-oaks-pecans-chestnuts will take 20-30 years before they bear significant amounts. Each year though, the native food festivals will feature all of these native foods from outer sources + the farm.

Phase 3 Native Plant Agricultural Food Festivals         (2021 and Beyond)

These food/ecology festivals will use the native plant crops grown on the farm + locally sourced to promote native plant agriculture and native plant-based diets. It will also serve as a place to learn about and connect with the +60 species of native plants on the farm and the wildlife they support. To supplement these bigger festivals, we'll also hold multiple workshops a year and plant sales on site for you to start your own native plant agricultural projects. It will take some years for the trees to start producing, but the native meadows, and herbacous perennial crops will establish and begin within 1-3 years of planting.