A Rural System Case Study: The Morel Mushroom Forest System

Rural System, Inc., the forming enterprise, plans to work with simple and complex systems. Understanding and managing natural systems based on the best available knowledge can lead to improvements in the benefits had from the system. In this case, by understanding the system in which morel mushrooms are best propagated, land managers are able to manage the system to obtain more morel mushrooms in a given season.

morel forestEcology is the study of plants and animals and their relations to each other and their environment. Thus, ecology is the study of almost everything in rural areas. That’s what ecologists have to examine, and some as those within Rural System try to use the results of such studies to improve human conditions or prevent them from worsening. [Read more…]

The Havens Project: A Vision of Computer Guided Forest Management

“My son-in-law, on seeing a thin white worm in mud in a pond below the Peculiar Manor cabin that we were cleaning out, jumped into the pond and said, ‘Let’s get it!’,” writes Dr. Robert Giles. “At age 55, I was still learning from him about childlike excitement.” We all need this enthusiasm for life and wonder, and Dr. Giles thinks this especially necessary for a wildlife manager.375_628602523403_1118_n

Even before founding Rural System, Dr. Giles has been looking for ways to re-connect people with the land that supports them. He emphasizes that land and always has a rich, historical dimension as well as the potential for thriving ecological systems. [Read more…]

An Example of For-Profit Conservation: Propagating Wild American Ginseng

The name ginseng may conjure up many ideas varying from person to person. While most of us have seen the name on energy drinks next to other “energy” supplements such as guarana and B vitamins, few people may realize exactly how much controversy surrounds the plant. Ginseng is thought to give its users a temporary boost or alertness. This effect is questionable, but some things about ginseng can be verified: it often sells for over $300 a pound, and Asian markets have an almost endless demand for it.ginseng

Unfortunately, wild American ginseng, the most profitable variety, has been extensively over-harvested, and cultivated American ginseng is not nearly as treasured by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. Buyers can easily tell the difference between wild and cultivated ginseng, as the wild roots are gnarled and forked, often shaped like a man. The cultivated roots are smooth and fat, almost like carrots.

“The Chinese believe that the slower growing wild roots, which are harvested at an older age, absorb more curative power from the forest floor (Persons, 1994). Scientific laboratory tests are not used to determine the value of ginseng roots in China.”
Virginia Cooperative Extension

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Alternative Forest Enterprises: Wild Gourmet Mushrooms

Forest management for Rural System extends well beyond just logging. With the guidance of prescriptive software, forestry on Rural System properties would seek to stabilize profits in the long term, while using the forest in as many beneficial ways as possible. One possible enterprise would be to cultivate wild mushrooms in favorable natural conditions on the property, which usually include old, shady trees.

The Warren Wilson forestry program has a shiitake mushroom project to help pay for their forest management plans.

The Warren Wilson College forestry program has a shiitake mushroom project for student education, and as additional profit for the program.

Mushrooms can provide many benefits to the land, other species, and property owners. Gourmet mushrooms attract high prices which could potentially be a source of profit for property owners. [Read more…]

Conversations with a Founder – Forest Management

During the process of researching the post on the potential benefits of logging, The Value of Seemingly Vile Activities, I learned a great deal about my own misgivings about the logging industry. I searched for the basis of my opposition, not to our need for wood products, but for my gut reaction of uneasiness at the mere idea of harvest in currently protected areas. I decided to talk with our founder, Dr. Robert H. Giles, Jr. about my personal discovery and learned something new about Rural System in the process. [Read more…]