What is a Food Forest?

 
 

A Food Forest is an edible ecosystem designed primarily for food production, but can also provide for other human needs for fiber, fodder, fuel, materials, and more!

Imagine wandering through a wild forest garden where almost every plant is edible and all plants serve a purpose…

A mature Food Forest is comprised of taller canopy trees, usually nuts and fruits, with a sub-canopy of berries and shrubs, followed by herbs and veggies below.

In the Pacific Northwest, a Food Forest consists of 7 Layers. We can count 9 layers when including marshes and mushrooms!

Why a Food Forest?

Food Forests are living proof that industrial agriculture is not the only way to feed the world. In fact, we now recognize conventional agricultural practices to be a major contributor towards climate change, environmental destruction and desertification.

Monoculture methods of single-species crops results in the removal of entire ecosystems.

This destroys top soil with yearly deep tilling, and pollutes our waters and earth with synthetic petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. The results are fragile, unhealthy, unnatural landscapes that depend upon a staggering amount of inputs in order to operate.

On the other end of the spectrum lies a Food Forest, as an example of a regenerative, resilient and time-tested method of growing food and cultivating humanity.

A food forest functions as a healthy closed-loop ecosystem, with each organism playing a role. Each element of the system supports the whole. The many relationships happening in an ecosystem are imitated in a food forest.

Food Forests

-build soil and regenerate the landscape

-yield a wide variety of food, fiber, fuel, fodder, medicine and materials

-self-fertilize with nitrogen fixing species and green manure chop n drops

-Sequester Carbon, offsetting climate change

-Provide habitat for endangered insects and pollinators

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Marshmallow flowering at Winslow Food Forest!  Photo by Kayla Kennet

Marshmallow flowering at Winslow Food Forest!

Photo by Kayla Kennet

Monocropping devastates ecosystems by forcing the land to gro only one thing for miles and miles. This is the face of modern conventional agriculture.

Monocropping devastates ecosystems by forcing the land to gro only one thing for miles and miles. This is the face of modern conventional agriculture.

Illustration by Graham Burnett

Illustration by Graham Burnett

A year 3 food forest grown by Mel and Teague. Pictured is an Almond guild with autumn olive to fix nitrogen, cardoons as a mulch plant, lupine to attract pollinators, herbaceous layer of thyme, and ground cover of strawberries.

A year 3 food forest grown by Mel and Teague. Pictured is an Almond guild with autumn olive to fix nitrogen, cardoons as a mulch plant, lupine to attract pollinators, herbaceous layer of thyme, and ground cover of strawberries.