$1,500 Yield ($4.25 a Square Foot) From Selling a Weed - Despite Grasshopper Plague

Here is Luna Billington and her father Michael surveying one of my sheep sorrel patches at my Hot Springs, Montana farm.  Notice the green plants in the foreground and the dug up patch.
Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is a common non-native weed. 3 years ago I let a few chance plants grow in my irrigated garden because I knew it was in demand as a medicinal.  Mostly I let it grow as an understory to the shrubs and perennial herbs
We harvested about 100 pounds of fresh sheep sorrel root this year and it would have been a lot more except for the grasshopper plague killed a lot of it and retarded the rest.  The garden looks pretty bare in this November 3 photo because the grasshoppers stripped the leaves off almost all plants and even ate the bark on some shrubs and trees.  Notice they didn’t do much damage to the black locust trees.
The sheep sorrel made over $1,500 for me this year, my best crop in the grasshopper ravaged garden  $4.25 a square foot in yield. Not bad for a weed in the garden.
Notice the semi-arid nature of the hills in the background  This area receives between 12 and 15 inches of precip a year normally and this year’s drought affected us too.
Other photos here show a close up of open patches and one underneath the stripped currant bushes. Note the dark green fall nettle crop in the background. The grasshoppers ate the main crop but a fall crop of leaves came up.
In 42 years of growing I have only been wiped out by grasshoppers twice. So every 21 years in the inland Northwest one might expect a bad grasshopper year.  More drought might make this happen more often.  Another reason to stabilize the climate.

MICHAEL “SKEETER” PILARSKI is a life-long student of plants and earth repair. His farming career started in 2nd grade and his organic farming career began in 1972 at age 25. Michael founded Friends of the Trees Society in 1978 and took his first permaculture design course in 1982. Since 1988 he has taught 36 permaculture design courses in the US and abroad. His specialties include earth repair, agriculture, seed collecting, nursery sales, tree planting, fruit picking, permaculture, agroforestry, forestry, ethnobotany, medicinal herb growing, hoeing and wildcrafting. He has hands-on experience with over 1000 species of plants. He is a prolific gathering organizer and likes group singing.