My guest today is Emmet Van Driesche, author of Carving Out a Living on the Land: Lessons in Resourcefulness and Craft from an Unusual Christmas Tree Farm. He joins me to share his life transitioning to farming. How he became a Christmas tree farmer, who coppices softwood balsam firs rather than cutting and replanting. How he earns an additional on-farm income through spoon carving. And we end with his thoughts on planning for long term succession, both of the land as he considers how to leave this patch of earth for future generations, and the process of transitioning a farm between non-family members, as he took over responsibility and ownership of the Christmas tree farm from his mentor Al.
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You can find Emmet’s work at emmetvandriesche.com, his Instagram at emmet_van_driesche, and his book Carving Out a Living on the Land: Lessons in Resourcefulness and Craft from an Unusual Christmas Tree Farm at ChelseaGreen.com.
In cooperation with Chelsea Green, I’m giving away a copy of Emmet’s book over on Patreon. That opens on May 20 and runs through the end of the month. This giveaway is open to everyone, all you need to do is leave a comment in the post. You’ll find that at Patreon.com/permaculturepodcast.
As a permaculture practitioner, what I like about Emmet’s work, beyond coppicing softwoods, is the practical long-term, multi-path approach to his plans. He’s created a diversity of income from the farm that allows him to continue to work there by taking what started as trees and wreaths supplemented with an off-farm income and expanded to spoon carving, planting basket willow, and encouraging the growth of deciduous trees.
He’s also considering future generations in his land management and successions plans. Helping to return the farm to hardwood trees—for his near-term use as shade—creates additional ecological and economic value. By stewarding the ground today, should someone decide not to farm Christmas trees here in the future, the land takes on a different shape that new eyes can look on with wonder and consider the many possibilities at that moment and form their own view of what the future holds.
If each of us could use Emmet’s example and plan holistically for the future, even one generation ahead, what a more beautiful, verdant world we could have.
If you enjoyed this conversation with Emmet and would like to learn more, pick up a copy of his book Carving Out a Living on the Land: Lessons in Resourcefulness and Craft from an Unusual Christmas Tree Farm from Chelsea Green Publishing.
If you have thoughts on this episode and want to continue the conversation, leave a comment, or drop something in the post.
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Until the next time, spend each day enjoying the crafts of your labor, your care of the land, all while taking care of Earth, your self, and each other.
Carving Out a Living on the Land
Emmet Van Driesche
National Christmas Tree Association