One Garden  

One Garden, Forest Garden

by David Haenke

One Garden sees the whole of the Bryant Creek Watershed, and all that grows and happens within it, under the "umbrella" of its vision. This "umbrella" then, includes the 228,000 acres of forest that make up 61% of the Watershed’s total 373,000 acres. Specifically, the projects within One Garden’s purview include Ozark Botanical Garden, Elixir Farm, the Bryant Watershed Atlas (, and the Alford Forest and Alford Forest, Inc. "One Garden," in its largest sense, is a forest garden, where we carry the understanding that, for the most part, the Ozarks was, and generally wants to be forest, and almost everywhere trends towards a forest condition where savanna, some true prairie, and human clearings for agriculture and other uses come and go within the woodsy matrix. "Forest" is the umbrella reality of the Ozarks Bioregion and the part of it known as "The Bryant Creek Watershed."

Running intermittently up to 4 miles along and in places over three miles to the west of Bryant Creek in Northern Ozark County, in the Missouri Ozarks, is the 4000 + acreage known as "The Alford Forest."

Land constituting the Alford Forest was purchased in 1945 by John Alford, who, according to daughter Miriam Ella Alford, wanted a place where his children could go as a refuge from city life.

Miriam Ella Alford is an extraordinary and visionary soul who has supported ecologically and socially responsible causes for decades, and she has a great love for the original family land that we now call "The Alford Forest." Miriam Ella gained controlling ownership of the land in 1975-6, and from that time forward she has done all she can to protect the forest, including, from the late 70’s on, maintaining a dialog with local and regional individuals and organizations who concern themselves with issues of ecological protection and management of forests to see what long term options might be out there for caring for the land as far into future as possible.

After around 20 years of good stewardship and periodic planning and visioning discussions, Miriam Ella, along with advisors and local residents who cared deeply about the Alford Forest, engaged in a long-term plan to protect and manage the land through a combination of arrangements that included:

  1. donating 3000 of the acres to the Ozark Regional Land Trust/ORLT
  2. working towards putting protection on the rest of the land through conservations easements/CE’s
  3. setting aside nearly 1000 acres into ecological protection reserves
  4. allowing ecological improvement harvesting of logs, and other timber stand improvement activities, on appropriate areas of the Forest not set aside in ecological reserves.

Starting in 2000, through lease agreements with a non-profit forest management organization, Alford Forest, Inc./AFI (AFI is not organizationally connected with Miriam Ella Alford, and is formally associated with her only through lease agreements), both Miriam Ella and ORLT have engaged AFI to carry out ecological management, including improvement harvesting, on the Forest.

AFI’s eco-forestry work is oriented towards improving the health of the forest through "uneven-aged" "single-tree selection" methodologies patterned after those of the Ozarks’ Pioneer Forest, an exemplary 163,000 acre holding which has been successfully and profitably harvesting for over 50 years, while steadily increasing both the health and the value of the forest.

AFI’s harvest methodology primarily seeks out trees to cut which are dying, diseased, poorly formed, not in optimal growing sites, or overcrowded, attempting to do in a short time what the forest itself would do, through the processes of natural selection, over a period of decades. This philosophy is the direct opposite of most logging, which is either "high-grading" ("take the best and leave the rest"), or clear cutting (also known as the most severe form of "even-aged management"). High-grading in particular has resulted in a severely degraded forest over most of the Ozarks, and anywhere else in the world where it is practiced.

AFI’s tree management methods and goals are similar to those of eco-logical agriculture and organic farming and gardening relative to plant selection and upgrading seed/growing stock viability: the weakest and poorest are "weeded" out and the strongest and most adaptive left to grow, propagate, and produce seed. At the same time, no chemicals, whether fertilizers or biocides, are used on the forest, and all harvesting is conducted in ways that afford the least possible ecological impact on land and water. "Native forest" and its species composition are maintained as close to the original state as possible. Just as an organic garden will maintain plant species and habitats that encourage beneficial insects and other wildlife for plant pollination and predation, den and snag trees are retained on the Alford Forest in great numbers for the benefit of wildlife.

The larger and longer-term vision of One Garden and AFI is to see the forests of the Bryant Creek Watershed and the Ozarks Bioregion restored through the techniques of "forest gardening" to some semblance of the health and productivity of "pre-settlement" times, where human activities and agriculture are carried out ecologically in respectfully-created clearings in the greater "forest garden" of the Watershed.

More info:
Ozark Regional Land Trust:
David Haenke’s thoughts and musings: