Healing Plants, Regenerative Agriculture, & Permaculture Design for Earth Renewal
On our farm, located within Delaware River Watershed, we cultivate fruits, nuts, medicinal herbs, and wild edibles within naturalized plantings that mimic the wild ecology. Through site specific design, we integrate approaches found in environmental restoration, permaculture design, and regenerative agriculture to create low input, self-renewing, agroecological systems that naturally restore health and integrity to our shared landscape.
Beyond our fields we bring these practices to our consulting and design work with farmers, landowners, and organizations. Inspired by a philosophy that recognizes all elements are integral to an interconnected planet, we approach landscapes as interdependent ecosystems, out of which the well being of all is reflected in the health and functionality of the whole. We bring this mindful holistic approach to everything we do, from the products we craft, to the programs and services we offer.
In the spring of 2011 we found ourselves in a curious position. The historically farmed, 10 acre plot of agricultural land we had recently moved onto appeared by all accounts to be, un-farmable. A water-logged, compacted, clay sub-soil was all that remained of the once fertile native silt loam. Where verdant streams and creeks once flowed through these cliffsides to the river below, stagnant anaerobic puddles now dotted the landscape. Wetland sedges, and vigorous species like autumn olive, multi flora rose, and blackberry persisted where the diverse flora of a forested ecosystem could no longer. Our attempts at traditional cultivation ended with flooded plantings and broken equipment.
Out of the turbulence, perplexing questions arose that ultimately came to shape our approach as agriculturalists, designers, and land stewards. From disparate points on a map that traversed time, we traced a history of people and place that began with the indigenous communities that inhabited this cliffside 10,000 years ago. For thousands of years, people lived within a diverse forested ecosystem that was home to an array of native flora and fauna, and made vibrant by the waterways and river tributaries that swell and rush with the seasons. Beginning with the first colonial settlers, a fracturing of the landscape initiated as the forests were cleared and the land tilled. Natural streams and seasonal creeks were leveled and eventually bifurcated by roadways and development. Without the stabilizing root structures of a diverse old growth woodland, fungal communities fractured by tillage, and waterways diverted, a pathology developed as the soil eroded, the water stagnated, and anaerobic conditions radically altered the plant communities.
As we pieced together a narrative, a deeper awareness emerged alongside a deep-seated resolve to develop an approach to farming that mediated the needs of human culture, while positively impacting the landscape. We pulled inspiration from ecological restoration, forest gardening, wild gardening, indigenous land management, a little known reality tv series called "swamp loggers,” and the regenerative field of permaculture design. As a result, our flagship farm site continues to transform from a once “over-farmed” and depleted landscape, to an abundant functional ecosystem that is home to an emergent 10 acre forest garden, bursting with perennial polycultures of nut trees and berry bushes growing alongside a diverse understory of medicinal herbs and wild edibles. An interconnected series of installed ponds and waterways collect, store, and move water across the landscape. The farm is home to a myriad of creatures that nest in the trees, hum and hover in the meadows, rustle in the grass, and croak in the ponds.
In the intervening years our scope and mission has expanded as our farm has led us to work beyond our fields as designers and consultants. Working with clients that range from small scale homesteaders to broad acreage farmers, we bring our services to people and landscapes across the region. Our farm acreage has expanded as well to include a 35 acre silvopasture site located just down the road from our original farm. We continue to serve our local community with a diverse product line featuring goods crafted from plants grown on our certified organic farm. Our experience has inspired us to create philosophically driven educational programming that aspires to connect people and planet through story, permaculture, plant medicine, and planetary renewal.
All our endeavors continue to evolve as works in perpetual progress. With each season we grow and subtle changes in perspective help us to stay open to new ways of seeing and revelatory ways of being. What roots us is a deep connection to place, and a relationship with the natural world that is grounded in humility and reverence. In the wake of environmental degradation resulting from an unbalanced relationship with the natural world, we found a common thread of understanding, and began to weave a medicine story of alchemical transformation.
Lindsay Napolitano is an herbalist, farmer, artist, and permaculture designer living and working within the fields and forests of the Delaware River Watershed. She is the co-founder of Fields Without Fences, a forest garden farm and permaculture design service. In collaboration with the natural world she designs, cultivates, and tends wild gardens and woodlands while growing and crafting plant medicine for her extended community. Combining a love of story, myth, metaphysics, and ecology, Lindsay weaves an inspired narrative throughout her teachings on the subjects of herbalism, permaculture, and agroecology. She is a practicing clinical herbalist and writes professionally on subjects including herbalism, permaculture, and environmental renewal. You can usually find her outside, aiding and abetting the plants in their ceaseless quest for world domination.
Johann A. Rinkens is an ecological designer and experienced agriculturalist consulting and advising on regenerative land management. He is the co-founder of Fields Without Fences, a forest garden farm and permaculture design service, and teaches extensively on the subjects of permaculture design and agroecology. His background in anthropology, agrarian land rights, and more than a decade of work in the field as an organic farmer, combine to inform his perspective on integrated, place based, and functional ecological design. Approaching landscapes from a restorative perspective, Johann is motivated by the inherent balance of natural systems, and an eagerness to continue to evolve his understanding to reflect that elegance of design.