The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1456: Restoration Agriculture with Mark Shepard


    Click here to download the episode. | Open Player in New Window

    My guest for this episode is Mark Shepard, author of Restoration Agriculture.

    As you might expect from this show we start with his biography and background, work our way through a call to action for permaculture practitioners and a need to be realistic in our efforts, and finally wrap up this conversation by discussing his work of restoration agriculture. Don’t worry though, this is the first piece that Mark and I recorded together, so there will be more on this subject to follow, including listener questions in episodes two and three.

    I’m can produce episodes like this one, and those that follow in this series, because of your support. You allow me to schedule large blocks of time to have expansive candid conversations with interesting guests for the good of the permaculture community and beyond. If you value this show and these experiences, and I think you do since you choose to tune in, then support the show. Go to to find out how.

    I found this interview, and the other time I spent with Mark, delightful and challenging. He asks hard questions and proposes solutions that at first glance seem difficult, but that ultimately are necessary to doing this work in a meaningful way and getting beyond the “feel good” actions of a little here and a little there. The potentially unstable future posed by weather wierding and climate change requires action.


    As part of that, and because I don’t believe in asking anyone to do something that I wouldn’t or haven’t done, I’m going to take up Mark’s challenge to eat a diet free of annual grains and annual legumes for 30 days. Actually, I’ll be doing it for 31, from August 1st through the 31st, 2014. Will you join me in this journey and see what the experience is like in a world of mass produced foods and perceived scarcity? Together we can show the possible abundance that lurks beyond the shelves of our local supermarket.

    Expect a month or so to pass until the next of these pieces with Mark, and the final one to come out in late September or early October.

    Also, Jen Mendez at Permie Kids is holding a series of online discussions via Google Hangouts that she’s calling Edge Alliances. This is a way for permaculture practitioners and educators to come together and discuss ideas, share experiences, ask questions, and propose solutions. Sunday, July 20th she is examining self-empowerment and self-defense, and on Sunday, July 27th the conversation will look at Forest Schools as a model for childhood education. You can find out more about these at:

    Are you practicing restoration agriculture? Or just want to talk permaculture? Let me know:

    Phone: 717-827-6266
    Twitter: @permaculturecst

    The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann
    P.O. Box 16
    Dauphin, PA 17018

    (Episode: MarkShepard)


    1 Ping/Trackback

    1. […] that small, local Food Forests are the answer to the world’s food needs, have a listen to Scott Mann’s interview with Mark […]

    2. AmyAmy
      July 25, 2014    

      I’m excited to listen, thanks for your efforts to share this with us! We’ve heard Mark speak twice at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farmers Association annual conferences the last two years. I was so inspired, read the book, and recently listened to your interview with Mark from 2012.

      Though we only have a tenth of an acre, we have taken his perspective into consideration with design planning, as we’re in the heart of oak savannah country (Ohio) and ironically have a giant oak hanging over our property from the neighbors’ yard!

      We’ve lived a grain free lifestyle for three years now, and fully support his opinion that monocropped grains are a huge problem. We experienced huge health benefits with the diet shift. One suggestion – when you take away the grains (carbs) it’s best to replace them with healthy fats for satiety. We found that out the hard way. Good luck with your grain-free challenge 😉

    3. HeidiHeidi
      August 1, 2014    

      Excellent interview! Having taken Mark’s guided tour of his farm this summer, I am in wholehearted agreement with his point of view on making permaculture farms going concerns that yield a profit. That is the only way he is (or we are) ever going to be able to persuade his neighbors — and farmers everywhere — to adopt a restoration agriculture approach.

      His comments about diet are key. If you are eating foods produced through traditional broad-acre farming, EVEN ORGANIC farming with tillage and heavy machinery, you are contributing to the destruction of the best carbon-sink on the planet: perennial ecosystems. (Not to mention the use of fossil hydrocarbons as fuel, the degradation of soil and all the other problems that come along with cultivation.)

      I’m older than Mark, and a bit late to the game, but I can’t help look at the farm fields around my house and contemplate the possibilities. At some point, my husband and I are likely going to lease or buy part of this highly abused land, if only to plant a perennial system for another generation to enjoy.

    4. GeorgeGeorge
      August 6, 2014    

      As always, very good interview. I particularly appreciated Marks’ thoughts about context. I’ve been a design professional for all my adult life and I learned early on about context and it’s importance in any design.

      I’ve done two PDCs and have seen some of what he describes relative to herb spirals, rain barrels (ultra important to know how much rain can fall and what makes sense), and other things that are siezed upon as solutions but would be better for other climates.

      I believe he hit the nail on the head saying we’ve been conditioned to look at details and bits instead of overall patterns. No wonder when we’re bombarded with bits and bytes in the media and have to be detectives to find out what we need to know.

      I’ve yet to find someone in my normal group of friends, acquaintances, and work colleagues who knows what is. Kind of an important pattern/framework issue to all of us and they certainly don’t know we’re hovering just below 400.

      Thank you Mark for highlighting some very important issues in permaculture and I like what you’re doing. You are much farther down this road we need to travel than I am but I’m working on it.

      I’m also currently 95% grain free and I often still have oatmeal or organic corn grits for breakfast sometimes (hey, I grew up in the south). My family is far from on board with the changes I’ve been making and that’s really my biggest challenge. I don’t buy barbeque chips but if someone else does, well, you know how it is.

      Thanks again.

    5. Kelly ClarkKelly Clark
      January 4, 2015    

      Great interview, thanks for doing this. It’s given me lots of food for thought. What resource would you recommend for learning more about key-lining?

      • January 5, 2015    

        Hello Kelly,

        For Keyline design I would recommend Water for Every Farm by P.A. Yeomans. This is the go-to resources for this type of land management.

    6. MikaylaMikayla
      October 14, 2016    

      I’m really interested in the idea of an annual gain/legume free diet but I have no idea what this looks like on a day to day basis. How can I make sure i’m getting enough sustenance? Can you recommend any resources?

    1. Restoration Agriculture | Food Forest NZ on July 25, 2014 at 02:37

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