The Future of SAF: Jameson Meyst

June 18, 2020

This month The Forestry Source features Jameson Meyst. As an undergraduate at California State University San Marcos, Meyst is studying environmental studies and indigenous anthropology, and as a part-time student at MiraCosta College he’s pursing a number of horticultural certifications, including arboriculture. He joined SAF in April 2019 and is a member of the Southern California SAF.

In his own words, Meyst shares how forestry and farming are interconnected and we should reconsider how we value forests.

The Link Between Forestry and Farming 
By Jameson Meyst


How I found forestry
I returned to school in summer 2017 to finish my associate degree in archeology, and in fall 2018, enrolled at Cal State San Marcos (CSUSM) to earn a bachelor’s degree. When I discovered they had a program in environmental studies, I changed my major and began exploring the professional environmental networks in my area. After earning a scholarship to attend the Virginia Biological Farming Conference in January 2019, I was intrigued by a speaker who was both a forester and mushroom farmer. I wanted to learn more about forestry, so I looked for other forestry-related events that I could attend as soon as possible. Luckily, I happened upon a silviculture session with John Munsell on woodlot stocking calculations, and immediately fell in love with forestry. [Munsell is a SAF member and associate professor and forest management extension specialist at Virginia Tech.]

Through an Internet search, I found the annual Inland Empire Tree Improvement Cooperative meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. My godmother lives in Sandpoint, so I decided to attend the conference and afterwards visit her and her ten-acre forest in northern Idaho. I loved the conference so much, I attended again this last March. Meanwhile, I am working with my godmother to incorporate some mushroom farming into her forest management plan.

My research and volunteer projects
Currently, I am using California Department of Food and Agriculture grant funding to study the effects of compost and mulch on my 1.4-acre forest parcel, where I grow seasonal vegetable crops for local markets. I have incorporated hedgerow and windbreak plantings to double as weather buffers and wildlife habitat. This has been a rewarding experience, as I’m able to actively engage in the learning process, while having my soils tests and farm inputs reimbursed through the grant. I hope to set an example for what is possible on a small piece of property with part of it in forest cover.

At CSUSM, since fall 2019, I have served as the director of the Garden Committee for Environmental Stewards Association, which means I am in charge of the management and development of the Pollinator Garden and Sustainable Food Project (SFP), where we grow food for students. The space also serves as an outdoor classroom and hands-on outdoor environmental studies laboratory. We grow food for the Cougar Food Pantry, which provides fresh local produce for free to any student in need.

In March, the university shut down the Sustainable Food Project; I had hosted student volunteer days there to help get our production going for the spring and summer. As an alternative, I am now helping a local nonprofit called the Botanical Community Development Initiative to grow and distribute food for families in need during these uncertain times. Recently I received permission to resume the SFP, where I hope to grow lots of food for the weekly drive-up food distributions being held by Cougar Pantry through the summer.

Next semester I want to help the Compost Group, a local composting business, develop their partnership with CSUSM to create best-management-practices for in-vessel aerobic composting of post-consumer food waste from the University Student Union, where Sodexo has several dining establishments used by students throughout the semester. I will also be developing our own feedstock recipe and method for creating safe, effective compost for the SFP. I am definitely including wood chips in my recipe! I applied for a scholarship with the Composting Council on Research and Education Foundation (CCREF) to fund my employment in this capacity. We will be tracking feedstock recipes to determine the best way to handle the changing content of the inputs while maintaining a certifiable level of quality throughout the process. This type of study is exactly what I’ve been looking to get involved with.

In addition to attending CSUSM, I am also a part-time student at MiraCosta College, where I am earning a number of horticultural certifications. I want to take the ISA Certified Arborists test this year and am finishing the Qualified Water Efficient Landscape (QWEL) certification, as well as a vineyard management class.

The relationship of farming and forestry
With my work, I want to tap into the ancient knowledge held by indigenous cultures to rebuild a more resilient and abundant natural food economy that also bolsters our defense against natural disasters resulting from climate change. Forests played a significant role in how humans evolved, particularly in proximity to oak forests. These hardwood forests provided the fuel necessary for smelting, sail the open seas, and construct large buildings with great versatility and strength, not to mention the countless tools designed principally because of the physical properties of a material like wood.

Every culture across the world has some connection to a local forest with an endemic plant species profile unique to that specific geographic location. This is why corn and soy aren’t necessarily the best blanket application across the vast expanses of American prairie and forestland. These are the agroecological concepts I have come to find most interesting after deciding to pursue a career in both archaeology and agriculture. I am convinced that there is much wisdom in ancient methods of agriculture that can be paired with some of the technology of today to create a more sustainable food and fiber production system here in the United States. As Americans, we are stewards to 193 million acres of forestland managed by the US Forest Service, and we have an obligation not only to manage these lands, but to manage them sustainably with the future of our nation and world in mind. We must be part of the solution, rather than the problem.

Future goals
In regard to creating agricultural solutions, my ultimate career question is this: How can small farms integrate agroforestry and indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge in their long-term farm resilience planning?

In my archeology studies, I went on digs in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Texas, and here in southern California. All the cultures whose remains we were excavating had developed cultures dependent and in harmony with their local forest. My best friend who working on his Ph.D. at Yale is studying an indigenous culture in Ecuador who consider the forest a “developed urban setting,” complete with highways, markets, and recreational parks. The idea of cutting down a forest to develop it simply does not have any rational basis in this culture’s opinion. They equate it to demolishing a building for “progress.”

Living in southern California for 32 years, I have seen the indigenous tribes ostracized, alienated, and disregarded in the decision to develop southern California with more houses than people living in them. Part of my career goals are to help the tribes replant oaks to grow for acorn meal and sell it for the members of tribes who do not benefit from per-capita casino checks. This way they can be part of supporting themselves while maintain their cultural traditions, rather than ditching them for billboards, rock concerts, and slot machines.

Once I finish my degree at CSUSM, I’m excited to begin real forestry work in Idaho, northern California, and of course, my stomping grounds in the eastern part of southern California. Ultimately, I would like to provide consulting services for large landholders interested in agricultural enterprise such that agro-ecological methodology and strategy may be implemented on their land. Their success may then be used as a model for other local farmers/foresters to learn from and replicate in ways most appropriate to the adaptation of each forest landowners desired land management goals. Regardless of the goals or methods used, healthy soil is the mechanism and means by which to achieve a balanced ecosystem. Healthy soil and microbiology are the key to a solid foundation for our food producers to meet the growing demand of our growing population while maintaining adequate safety measures regarding pest and disease control. From this foundation, we can build a sustainable future for our future family and foresters. My hope is that people even seven generations from now will they see that we planted the right seeds for their future.

Jameson Meyst can be reached at sanc2s@gmail.com.

SAF members can read the full June 2020 edition of The Forestry Source here.