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Adapting syntropic agroforestry to temperate climates, with Renke De Vries

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Syntropic Agroforestry has exploded in popularity and interest in the last few years. I’ve explored this agroforestry design and management system a little in some previous episodes with my friend Jacob Evans, but there’s so much more to explore. 

First pioneered by renowned farmer Ernst Gostch in Brazil, his integrated approach of dense planting and timed pruning and intervention to accelerate natural succession and replace outside inputs for both ecosystem regeneration and nutrient dense food production has sparked an interest in many people to adapt the concepts to their own climates and contexts.

From what I’ve heard however, adapting syntropic methods to temperate climates has proven more difficult than many people originally thought. The plants that thrive in these latitudes have different growth cycles with their long dormant period and many compete for light more than their tropical counterparts.

Luckily I was able to find someone who has not only studied with Ernst closely in Brazil, but has also been pioneering syntropic systems in Germany who was able to share some key learnings from the first couple years of trial.

Renke de Vries studied International Forest Ecosystem Management, and works as an agroforestry designer and consultant and in arboreal maintenance. From 2019 till 2023 he has been responsible for the design, establishment and management of syntropic agroforestry systems especially at Gut and Bosel, the famous farm in Brandenburg outside of Berlin in Germany.

In this interview we go into the learnings that he brought from his formal studies in forestry and forest management and how they juxtapose with his learnings from Ernst in Brazil. 

We also dig into the systems that he has been  designing and planting and the crucial learnings in his ongoing attempts to use syntropic principles in temperate climates.

Though there is still so much to learn and experiment with, I’ve been very interested to see the different iterations of what I’m convinced are very wise and widely applicable principles of ecological management from the syntropic concept. Hopefully this discussion will spark some interest in some of you to start your own agroforestry experiments. 

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