Professional Agroforestry Consultants -- Hawaii
Agroforestry Design, LLC is based on Hawai'i Island and offers professional agroforestry and permaculture consultation and design drawing from experience with over 1,000 species in a diversity of climates, growing conditions, and cultivation systems.
Agroforestry Design was started by Dave Sansone to help gardeners, farmers and land managers "let nature do the work" with restorative agriculture practices that can also offer increased production with less inputs/effort. He works with Hawaiian cultural practitioners and other specialists including permaculture designers, native plant experts, nurseries, and extension agents according to project needs.
Since 1999, Dave has gained extensive experience in agroforestry, permaculture design and consulting, organic gardening, organic farming, native and edible plant nurseries, habitat restoration, intercropping, and no till/biotill. Nearly a decade practicing in Western Washington and 7+ years in Windward Hawai'i allow him to help cultivators and land managers to develop well designed productive and restorative agroforestry systems.
Agroforestry Design's specialty is succession based agroforestry--gardening like the forest to achieve production within weeks of planting while providing increasing production over the generations with little input or effort after establishment. He is recognized as an expert in Neglected and Underutilized Crops by Crops for the Future, 4 time winner of the Keaukaha Makahiki "Big Taro" competition using no outside inputs like fertilizer or lime and needing barely any weeding thanks to the intercropping with banana and Crotolaria. The largest taro from his research projects topped 24 lbs--more than three times the current Guinness Record for "Heaviest Taro". See Dave's resume here.
He currently maintains research gardens 300', 600' and 1,100' on windward Hawai'i Island where he has worked with over 400 species to assess their tolerances, habits, and ability to co-exist with other species. He is developing intercrop/polycultural models that include native, endemic, and endangered species habitat, bioterracing, biotilling, wainaku elimination, pig and chicken forage and fodder climate smart agriculture and more.
Dave was the founder and director of Perennial Harvest, a Washington State 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the research, education, and advocacy of sustainable cultivation systems. He presented on a variety of topics at universities, conferences, and events. His largest solo event was a presentation about edible forest gardening which had over 350 people in the audience . He has been interviewed by local and regional media outlets regarding permaculture and sustainability and has been published in Permaculture Activist, a US based permaculture magazine.
By age 4, Dave was working in the garden helping his mom with chores. For some reason, he wanted to plant corn, carrots, and potatoes together in the shade and a bit later did a grade school science experiment to illustrate the effectiveness of biological erosion control. He later took a job developing edible and medicinal shade tolerant intercrop systems (permaculture guilds) where he realized that developing succession based restorative agroforestry systems that 'let nature do the work was his calling in life.
When Dave first began his apprenticeship at an organic farm as a way to address the 6th Great Extinction (look it up) and social injustice; mentor farmer Mike Finger, a farmer of 25 years and former wildlife ecologist expressed that certified organic production is rarely ecologically sound or sustainable. He explained that inputs such as mined fertilizers, factory farm by-products, irrigation, fossil fuels for tractors and shipping have grave effects on wildlife habitat and people around the world.
Dave quickly noticed that monocrop cultivation practices create the frustratingly unproductive cycle of weeding every few weeks or else the crop would be stressed and /or fail. When he expressed that he wanted to find a system that is productive and sustainable, with less weeding; Mike encouraged Dave to look into Masanobu Fukuoka's "Natural Farming", permaculture, agroforestry, and traditional indigenous land management.
Mike's comments sent Dave on a life-long quest in which he has logged countless hours working & learning on diverse farms & nurseries, doing habitat restoration, working in permaculture research gardens, learning about and employing traditional indigenous cultivation practices, and developing his own agroforestry sites with hundreds of uncommon species.
Fukuoka's work has inspired and informed Dave to use the "no-till, no work" strategy--aim for the least effort to get the most outcome. That strategy led Fukuoka to have one of the highest producing rice farms in Japan--with out external inputs. Dave's initial trials using Fukuoka's principles offered mistakes to learn from. He learned that Fukuoka's systems had to be adapted according to climate and site conditions.
Dave's initial challenges in no-till gardening encouraged him to take a break from that method of cultivation while he became part of the anti-globalization movement in 2000. He found himself being a community organizer in the fight for clean air and water, intact old growth forests and social justice. Being a fiery youth, he was arrested numerous times and risked his life doing civil disobedience; ending up with conspiracy charges in Washington State and California. While his efforts played a significant role in ending local mercury and chlorine dioxide pollution, Georgia-Pacific paper company just moved its pollution to Mexico for a more business friendly environment with lower pay and less environmental and labor laws.
It became clear to Dave that fighting the system will not create the solutions we need. He dedicated himself to developing sustainable solutions that can overgrow our destructive and socially unjust systems. He took an offer to research no-input shade tolerant edible, medicinal, and spice plant polycultures at the Feral Farm in Rockport, WA, located in the North Cascades.
After years gaining experience developing no/low input systems, Dave started his own research farm in Rockport, WA with the goal of developing function polycultures with common and uncommon species. He planted approximately 500 species on the land. He established a living mulch of red clover, hardy annual and perennial vegetables, and various grains sown according to the season with little need for weeding on 4 acres. Year-round salad greens packed with nutrition were possible without the use of a greenhouse despite the up to 6' of snowfall by growing site adapted plants. An example of changing one's palate instead of changing the environment to suit the trained palate. He gathered wild foods to supplement his diet and encourage health.
Semi-nomadic horticultural systems offer inspiration because they are based on being away from the garden for weeks, months, to years at a time--something most cultivators have only dreamed of. Imagine being able to step away from the farm knowing that nature will do the work while you and your crew are gone and will let you show up to harvest. This is what makes traditional agroforestry so resilient and ecologically sound.
He believes all sustainable cultures have a root in the observation and interaction with nature and its processes. Years of observing nature in gardens, farms, ranches, and remote wildernesses has taught Dave that working with a keen understanding of nature's rules empowers cultivators to let nature do most of the work. Nature starts small and constantly refines itself, as cultivators should as well.