What is a food forest, you ask? And why should I put one in my yard???
As the world’s population grows and food waste, nutritional deficits, food insecurity, toxins found in food, and supply chain consistency issues increase in communities across the globe, many are looking for solutions to provide a healthier, more local, and reliable food source for themselves and their families.
One of these solutions is to plant a food forest.
So, what exactly is a food forest?
are perennial ‘gardens’ built to mimic the ecosystems from which plants originate. In doing so they offer a sustainable and relatively low-maintenance solution to the cycle of food waste and toxin-laden food produced by emissions-intensive producers.
Food forests -- which can be built in spaces as tiny as a rowhouse/townhouse yard or as large as multiple acre -- provide:
- improved food production, soil quality, and ecological diversity
- greatly enhanced food quality & nutrition
- sustainability, greater food security, & more freedom
- improved cashflow cycle in your favor. Instead of money flowing straight out like when you buy food, leaving you forever, growing your own perennial food using permaculture changes the cycle. You invest once and it pays you over and over again for decades.
GARDENING FOR SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION
The food forest method of gardening & food production dates back to ancient times.
In the societies of the past, food forests were used to cultivate and yield harvests of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other organically-grown food.
Food forests are a type of garden that imitates patterns that occur in the natural environments of which the plants originate. This practice maximizes yield, light exposure, and biodiversity while reducing the effort required to maintain the garden.
Around the world, food forests are growing in demand in both suburban and urban communities, where populations face increased pressure to establish food sustainability/security and maximize the use of public land.
In comparison to other types of gardening and farming, food forests are able to yield more. This is due to their three-dimensional configuration, which means that food grows vertically and horizontally instead of strictly from the ground. This configuration enables you to take advantage of all the space in your garden while preventing pests and other harmful species from thriving.
ELEMENTS OF A FOOD FOREST
A food forest’s design usually emulates a natural ecosystem. As such, it also matches its structure to that of a natural forest, which has 8 layers that serve as a home for all of the wildlife within the specific ecosystem. The layers include:
This layer is composed of the tallest trees in the garden, such as fruit trees and nut trees like walnut trees. This layer receives the most amount of sunlight.
This is the layer occupied by medium-sized trees that can tolerate an environment with a lesser amount of sunlight. One example of these medium-sized trees is an apple tree.
This layer is composed of plants that climb the trees in the canopy and understory. Vines, such as grapevines, can typically tolerate more shaded conditions.
This layer is primarily inhabited by short trees, leafy plants, and shrubs that bear fruit such as currants.
This layer provides the ideal conditions for a lot of herbs and other perennial plants, like asparagus, chard, and comfrey.
6. GROUND COVER
This is the layer that is best suited for grasses, crops, and plants that grow horizontally. A few examples include strawberries, squash, and mint.
Root crops, such as carrots, turnips, beets, onions, and sweet potato as well as annual plants occupy this layer of the forest.
This layer of the forest is home to many species of mushrooms & fungi that are native to the region. It acts as the natural composting mechanism that woody plants rely on to break down the old plant matter and fertilize the surrounding soil. Mycelia are the extension of the roots system.
Each food forest is unique to the property on which it will be planted and the tastes and goals of the people who will be harvesting from it. The food forest I plant may be very different from what's in yours based on our locations (different foods thrive in different climates), the layout of our properties, what we like to eat (don't plant things you won't actually use!), the types of herbs or other medicinal plants that would benefit our families, etc.
Here's an example of an actual food forest blueprint
that was custom designed for a family in the northeastern United States by a permaculture designer who is part of my cooperative. Isn't it beautiful?!? [Click on the image to look into requesting your own custom design
SHOULD YOU GROW A FOOD FOREST???
I'm so excited for you to begin considering this question! Trust me, the more you learn about food forests, the more you'll fall in love with them and their MANY benefits!
Would you like to have a food forest of your own, but are unsure of where or how to start?
Request that an expert from my favorite food forest organization put together a custom design for you.
Then install it yourself using their detailed instructions, or contract me or one of their other professional installation teams to build (and even maintain) it for you virtually anywhere you are in the world!
I'd LOVE to partner with you to transform grass or barren areas into an abundance of food and medicine!