Friday, October 15, 2010

Cornell's MacDaniels Nut Grove showcases forest farming

Conventional farming often evokes images of expansive fields under wide open skies.  But forest farming looks quite different: under an established forest including fruit or nut trees, crops like mushrooms, blueberries, and ginseng are cultivated.  At Cornell, forest farming techniques are featured at MacDaniels Nut Grove, near Route 366 and Palm Road.

"MacDaniels Nut Grove (MNG) may be the only site of its kind where the Agroforestry practice known as Forest Farming is developed as an outdoor class room for student and community education," according to Cornell professor Kenneth Mudge.  The site is used for teaching a Cornell course called Practicum In Forest Farming, and it is open to the public any time for self guided tours and scheduled events.

"MNG was initially planted by Dr. Lawrence MacDaniels in the 1930's to hickory and walnut grafted selections as a variety trial but abandoned in the early 1960's," says Mudge. "Beneath the canopy of mixed hardwood forest we grow shiitake mushrooms on logs, ginseng and other medicinal herbs, small fruits, and shade loving ornamentals."

A recent tour showcased the farm. "On Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010, about 100 visitors toured each of these crop stations, and got to inoculate (drill holes, insert spawn, wax) a short mushroom log for themselves. Snacks of the forest were served including pawpaw fruit, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, and hickory nuts," says Mudge.

Here, a student (in the red jacket) explains to a group about how mushrooms are grown:

Here, Dr. Mudge explains the cultivation of nut trees:

Here, shiitake mushrooms grow on a log:

(photos provided by Dr. Mudge)

Visitors are always welcome at MNG. There are plenty of interpretive sites around the grove to make their visit a pleasant learning experience.  The MacDaniels Nut Grove is located on the south edge of the Cornell Campus, near the Cornell Orchard. Coming from Ithaca on Rt. 366, turn right at the traffic signal at Palm Rd. Follow Palm Rd. as it turns sharply to the right, to the end of the road at the Cornell Library Annex where parking is available. Signs will direct you to the MacDaniels Nut Grove. Search for “Palm Road, Ithaca, NY” in Google Maps shows the Annex.

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