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July 27, 2013 By James Samuel 1 Comment Three well attended talks to appreciative audiences in Taranaki and Manawatu, resulted in a lead on a hidden 20 year old food forest in the Central Plateau. It was a short lead time, but this didn’t seem to matter, in these days of being able to share information rapidly through the networks. One of the highlights for me was meeting Che Rogers and seeing the tagged Facebook photos of his forest garden, taken with his daughter in the pictures for a sense of scale. The following night 30 people came out in Marton, from the efforts of Lorraine Bartlett who invited us to meet in the Marton Arts Centre. The next morning I went for a walk with our host Dean Williamson, and was impressed with the extensive and diverse agro-forestry plantings on his 120 acre farm. Gary and Emily Williams joined us for more juicy conversation, that included learning more about the 50 acre food forest project they have been engaged to design and are now implementing. After these events we headed off for what turned out to be a few shakey days in Wellington doing family things. We went up Mt Victoria, enjoyed a movie, made multiple trips to Te Papa Museum, and enjoyed the colourful waterfront and the school holiday activities on offer. At the Fielding talk Trevor Witt had informed me of a 20 year old Forest Garden in the Central Plateau. We left on Sunday morning, after the second substantial earthquake, and before the big one which hit later that day.
We plugged the address into Google maps and arrived unannounced in the late afternoon to the warmest welcome I could have dreamed of. It was also clear that people want more knowledge and information about how to design and implement a food forest or forest garden, so the next event is a Food Forest Hui – September 26th-28th. This Hui is aimed at people with a Permaculture Design Certificate, as a step towards increase the availability of workshops on this subject.
If you have not not had any Permaculture training, but wish to learn more about how to design and implement your own food forest, then please do register your interest in future hands on workshops or online learning.
Stefan will share from his experiences converting a commercial apple orchard into a fully-fledged commercial Permaculture Orchard. By consciously designing and implementing a food forest garden that mimics the evolutionary stage of a natural young woodland forest when it is mature enough to provide top canopy benefits (such as windbreaks) and yet still allow enough open space and sunlight for the healthy development of the lower forest garden layers , the maximum amount of product yield can be delivered while maintaining the authentic sustainability of the ecosystem.
Forest gardening is a low-maintenance organic plant-based food production and  agro-forestry  system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. Forest gardens, or home gardens, are common in the tropics, using inter-cropping to cultivate trees, crops, and livestock on the same land. Robert Hart pioneered a system based on the observation that the natural forest can be divided into distinct levels. The Agroforestry Research Trust, managed by Martin Crawford, runs experimental forest gardening projects on a number of plots in Devon, United Kingdom.  Covering his twenty years worth of experience Martin has written an extensive volume called “Creating A Forest Gardening” accompanied by an hour-long DVD.
In a suburban home garden, a young black walnut tree (left) and a sour cherry (right) tower above a blooming patch of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Unlike fad-dependent gardens that may be revamped when the plants go out of style, food forests are long-term landscaping solutions that promote the idea of land as an asset that increases its value each year.
Documented examples are scarce, but all seems to be working well in the renowned Village Homes neighborhood of Davis, California, developed nearly 40 years ago on a 70-acre parcel of land.
Of course, Califonia’s climate is ideally suited to growing a wide range of food plants. Imagine wandering the public path and plucking leaves of this sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) to make your own savory, antioxidant-rich tea. Communal food forests are also growing up at Massachusett’s Wellesley College and on the grounds of the Unity Church in St. However, the public food forest does seem a natural extension of America’s recently revived zeal for growing edibles in front yards and other public spaces, including the White House lawn. In May I talked to Doug Tallamy when he visited Buffalo to give a talk, and reported on it here.
Detroit immediately comes to mind as a suitable city where, hopefully, this concept has or can be implemented. Sacramento County (CA) has a huge parkway along the American River – 27 miles from the confluence with the Sacramento River up to Folsom Dam, both sides of the river. Boy oh boy the picture of that Black Walnut in the suburban garden makes me start twitching. Asparagus and strawberries were often planted years ago in newly-planted orchards in our valley here in Oregon for crops to make money until the fruit trees were producing. When I wrote my book on edible front yards, the biggest concern from people was always other people taking their food. I’ve long thought this was an ideal solution for some of the green spaces in my town (not that far from Davis, actually).
Where I live now, I’m within walking distance of the remnants of an old pistachio orchard. Any one have some good advice (or a good source for advice) on how to get the ball rolling on a community garden or public food forest?
Matthew, I’ve seen several well-intentioned gardens on public space fade into oblivion when the founders move on. At least here, a year or two without weeding, and a new bed is full of Oriental bittersweet and Norway maples, accented by multiflora rose, Euonymus alatus, honeysuckle, etc., which grow happily into the mulch or disturbed soil. The cities and towns here in eastern Connecticut are struggling to keep roads plowed and trash picked up. How to divide the harvest might be a question that hasn’t been tackled in many other public projects.
Not to be a Cassandra or anything, but sadly I see these spaces as a necessity if Americans aren’t to starve outright in the future. Nearly everyone I’ve talked to about sharing plants and produce has a story about the time they offered to share their bounty (a sign out front, or someone came to the door and asked), and they were cleaned out. Same thing happens at community gardens with fruit trees that are accessible to the public. Last month I saw someone picking something in a lawn near the community garden, so I went to see. Yes it does seem that churches and schools might have more resources to create, and more importantly to maintain, productive landscapes. At its best, the public food forest might function like an outdoor community center, providing a comfortable shared space for classes, meetings, and celebrations as well as being educational and producing a harvest to share.
Elizabeth Licata Commented on Promoting biodiversity on the local airwaves { I hear you, but I listed plants that I know from personal experience will go for long periods without water and still look good.

Leslie N Inman Commented on Ask a Designer: Make Invasives Great Again { But what about Doug Tallamy's message? Forest gardening takes an ecosystem approach to growing food, by integrating fruit and nut trees with shrubs, herbs, roots, vegetables, fungi, and supporting fertility plants. Forest gardening, also called woodland or three dimensional gardening, falls under the umbrella of Agroforestry, which as Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon, England has said "means different things to different people". Veganic growers might prefer the following definition: “Any agricultural system (agro-ecosystem) in which planted or protected trees are seen as economically, socially or ecologically integral to the system” (from Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands edited by Elevitch and Wilkinson). Functions of fertility (nutrient cycling), beneficial insect habitat, wind protection, soil cover and many more that exist in natural systems are designed into forest gardens by using multi-purpose trees, shrubs, herbs, roots, vines, ground covers and fungi. Dave of Darlington, a vegan organic grower who operated a commercial no-till box scheme in Durham, England, and wrote on agricultural efficiency, believed for years that only annual plants could provide enough yield to feed the growing global population.
Today’s agriculture, even organic agriculture, requires a large and increasing amount of energy to accomplish. Technology has increased productivity, or the amount of work done per person, to high levels. Annual cropping, Dave wrote, even done organically, is not sustainable and we must look toward perennials in the years to come.
Photographs used with permission of Martin Crawford, Director of The Agroforestry Research Trust, Schumacher Forest Garden Project on the Dartington Estate in South Devon, England. Starting with brown grassy soil in 2009 – we now have black loamy soil and our plants are thriving!! To foster environmental stewardship internationally by establishing community forests, promoting sustainable forestry techniques and initiating environmental education. Join us to celebrate the first anniversary of USM's unique Food Forest Garden on the Portland campus.
USM has a vehicle idling policy that regulates all vehicles on all campuses and ensures that we have the cleanest air possible. Kama Burwell, a very competent and active permaculturalist working at the Hive Taranaki Environment Centre, spread the word and drew in 40+ people on a chilly Monday night, aided by an interview on Access Radio Taranaki that morning. It was a particularly warm and generous welcome, and the talk was followed by an abundant pot luck meal, which kept the conversations going for some time until we had to leave to head over to Fielding. I suspect that after enjoying the William’s hospitality for a couple of days, and the Fielding talk that drew 60 people, including the Mayor, Dean will be looking at adding more food producing trees into his planting plans in the future. After quick introductions we were given a tour around the forest garden, and what a delight! We have a fantastic lineup of Permaculture teachers coming, so if you are available at the end of September, please jump in and read about this event and register your interest. In the gradual process of families improving their immediate environment, useful tree and vine species were identified, protected and improved whilst undesirable species were eliminated. In Kerala in South India as well as in northeastern India, the home garden is the most common form of land use and is also found in Indonesia.
Hart began farming at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire, England with the intention of providing a healthy and therapeutic environment for himself and his brother. Starting as relatively conventional small landholders, Hart soon discovered that maintaining large annual vegetable beds, rearing livestock and taking care of an orchard were tasks beyond their strength.
Most of the traditional vegetable crops grown today, such as carrots, are sun loving plants not well selected for the more shady forest garden system.
Bill Mollison, who coined the term Permaculture, visited Robert Hart at his forest garden in Wenlock Edge in October 1990. Numerous permaculturists are proponents of forest gardens, or food forests, such as Patrick Whitefield, Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier and Geoff Lawton. Many urban gardeners lack the space for a single fruit or nut tree, much less a diverse mix. Trees in particular may need years of growth before they produce a crop, so a food forest represents a significant investment of time. As many food plants need consistent water to reliably produce crops, I’m hoping it might spur more public trials and demonstrations of water collection and irrigation systems too. The landscaping was designed to provide edibles, incorporate runoff, and enhance passive solar properties of the roughly 240 homes. It will be interesting to see how the newly planted Beacon Hill Food Forest in a Seattle public park matures. Could it be a better fit than intensive annual vegetable gardens in park land and other less robustly staffed public places?  Do you know of a public food forest near you? Quite literally, one could be an urban farmer there with city block sized orchards that would require less city services, which are stressed and stretched thin already.
Several years ago, Soil Born Farms sprang up on old ranch land along this Parkway, and is a huge success. Harvesting food does require a concerted surge of effort at the right time, so it makes sense that trained groups could cover this better than individuals (who may or may not know when to harvest, how to process or store the food, etc.).
The term “Food Forest” may be a trend, but the reality of public food has been happening for quite a while! A good friend has been working on promoting a public permaculture food garden for some time here in Colorado–it’s a brilliant idea whose time has come! As we all know, gardening is hard work — the results may look lovely, but they can be hard-won.
I like the idea of coordinating with a local farm market, local gleaning organization, and so forth.
They have motivation too, as the act of caring for the landscapes, harvesting, and distributing their produce, aligns well with the goals of those organizations. Requiring an initial investment of time and energy, forest gardening is a long term, sustainable and low maintenance system that is well suited to those who have access to an area of land over a long period of time. Kip is currently establishing a Certified Stockfree-Organic forest garden in Geneva, Florida, and has recently taken a forest gardening course given by Martin Crawford, director of the Agroforestry Research Trust at the Schumacher Forest Garden site in South Devon, England. We bring in wood chips and straw every year to continue to build soil, while adding plants that: attract beneficial insects, repel pests, create natural mulch, accumulate necessary nutrients, create wildlife habitat, and provide food and medicine.
With many nurseries focusing on softwood trees, we saw a need to use under represented Acadian Forest species in our projects.
The chosen trees are long lived, slow growing, shade tolerant trees that are needed to restore the biodiversity of our forests so they can overcome the effects of climate change.
These gardens exemplify polyculture (multiple species of crops planted together), and conserve much crop genetic diversity and heirloom plants that are not found in monocultures (planting only one type of crop such as corn or wheat). However, a small bed of perennial vegetables and herbs he planted was looking after itself with little intervention.
Whitefield wrote the book How to Make a Forest Garden in 2002, Jacke and Toensmeier co-authored the two volume book set Edible Forest Gardening in 2005, and Lawton presented the film Establishing a Food Forest in 2008.

If they are developed and managed to incorporate runoff, build soil life, generate their own fertility, and promote insect diversity without relying on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, they can also be nature-friendly. Michael Corbett, the mastermind behind this model community, describes its features and their successful results in detail. These edible landscapes, having ready access to volunteers and being incorporated into the ongoing missions (educational and charitable, respectively) of the organizations operating them, seem more assuredly poised to thrive than strictly public ones. We have lots and lots of uneaten pecans on the ground here in Atlanta as well as many other fruit and berries that only a few gardeners and foodies would ever think to pick. Here in Los Angeles, neighbors planting their parkway hellstrips with edibles led to a change in the laws about planting these areas! It makes sense to use our public spaces for more than sports, dog-walking, picnicking… Why not grow food free for the public? They may not last much longer since they are no longer being tended in any way other than to have the grass cut beneath them. And I like the idea of promoting native plant beds among and around the crops to increase pollination and control pests, while filtering water etc.
Grants may cover installation, but it seems impossible to find grant money to keep a project going.
I’ve found some volunteers who can donate a few hours, but something this big needs a real crew to maintain, not just a handful of women of a certain age (like me) whose spirits are willing but knees are weak. I also like the idea of encouraging (and maybe demonstrating?) grazing by those who wander through. A better plan is to teach people about planting and harvesting, and then create more community gardens.
About 20% of the garden is plots for individuals, whose lease payments take care of the cost of running the rest of the garden (water etc.).
But I can also see how a small municipal government might have similar values and goals, and might have the ability to enlist motivated volunteers.
We see that nature provides for itself and does not need watering, fertilization, or even weeding.
As years pass, our Food Forest garden will need less outside input because nature does the work for us!
So we collected seeds for stratification and planted trees in beds to use in our restoration projects for the summer of 2012.
Since the effects of climate change on the Acadian Forest are unknown, the best practice is to restore diversity by planting a variety of native softwoods, hardwoods, shrubs, and herbs in our backyards and on our woodlots. Won’t this cause a stampede of poor and homeless people, or at the other end of the spectrum, a rotting stretch of fallen, unclaimed food?
If you’d like to walk the grounds vicariously, permaculture guru Geoff Lawton rhapsodizes during his visit in this short video.
A local group of Gleaning advocates, Fallen Fruit, planted a public Fruit Park in a neighborhood in Hawthorne, Ca – a noted food desert. A plum tree that’s inside the fence gets the outward-facing side picked all at once, too, even though the plums ripen at different times.
Sure it’s a great idea for towns to plant a fruit tree when they need to replace a street tree, but who’s going to be responsible for the care of each tree? As long as you can find a dedicated person to be in charge and enough volunteers to spread the workload, it’s a wonderful model. Biological diversity includes a variety of plants, genetics, habitats, soils, and even tree ages. Not only do they run a farmstand to sell the produce the grow, but they also teach classes on everything from how to start gardening to how to market your homemade goodies. It is young, but has activated the neighbors (especially the kids!) to maintain and care for the park, so far so good! And there is plenty more arable land (at least for orchards) around that could be planted in more pistachios, or any of the other multitudes of tree crops that grow around here. Not to dismiss them at all, I’m just thinking a little research could uncover some fine resources, particularly regarding public parks that have monuments, playgrounds, and other interactive elements. One of the organizers said that in this part of silicon valley, people new to the concept of sharing tend to be grabby. Churches own acres of unused land, but it doesn’t take much to grow lots and lots of food. With diversity we create forest resilience that can withstand environmental stress and climate variability. What happens if the water runs out, or untrained workers irreversibly damage the plants (and their future yields) with a bout of lousy pruning? Elementary & middle school students come to learn the basics of where food comes from, how we grow it, and how to care for the land.
The planting of food in public spaces, the sharing of it, is a radical social act that should be encouraged! One solution is to plant edibles that few people recognize as edibles, such as medlar or quince.
But maintaining and harvesting IS a part of these gardens – it will take a change in priorities and mindset. We create the same necessary ecological functions we see in nature and bring them into the food forest.
We carry these ethics with us in our international projects, in hopes that by promoting community involvement and sharing knowledge globally, we can together make a difference.
We don’t have community gardens (yes, this really irks me), but nearby Sacramento has many, all with long waiting lists. We could use this land to start a community garden of our own, one that really is open to the community. So many ideas, and I have no time, no time to knock on doors at city hall, much less find funding & volunteers.
Soil Born Farm is a wonderful thing & has done much in our region to promote sustainable living and eating local. If there is any way you could gather like-minded folks & get permission to make a park-garden, I highly encourage you to try.

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