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"What is a Food Forest?" Flyer Feedback Needed

 
gardener
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Alright, so as I’ve mentioned before I’ve begun working with some churches to incorporate edible landscaping and food forests into their properties and ministries. I wrote this handout myself just now using sources I looked up on the internet (credited at the end). I would like feedback on what you all think of the content and presentation. It’s not complete but I figured I’d ask for feedback now. Some things to keep in mind:

My target audience are fairly ignorant. As in, very detached from resource depletion, ecological collapse, climate change, etc. They’ve heard of these things (usually) but these are distant concepts to an unknown percentage of these congregations. But they’re good people and a few of them are jazzed about this kind of thing. I’ve taken a lot of the technical permaculture jargon out, and I’ve tried to reduce the number of words necessary to define. I figure that if this sticks, I can introduce new concepts later.

Also, I doubt that annual vegetation/root crops will be a part of this. Anything needing a lot of watering longer term (and labor) is likely out of the question. Most of these people are ok with an upfront water and labor cost but longer term would like things to be pretty low maintenance. Drought tolerance (after establishment of the plant) is key here.

Thanks for reading!


A food forest is space that is planted to mimic the way that natural forests and woodlands grow. Food forests have multiple layers, which can include tall trees (nuts and “standard” fruit trees), medium sized trees (semi dwarf fruit trees and hazelnuts), dwarf trees, shrubs, vines that climb on trees (kiwi, grape, etc), and occasionally a ground and root layer (plants like vegetables).
Food forests are designed to save on long-term labor and water. An upfront labor and water cost are necessary to get the plants established, but long term maintenance is minimal.
Food forests have many benefits. Not only can they provide sustenance for a community or family, they are also an important haven for insect life, including pollinators. They can provide bloom throughout the season for various kinds of bees and butterflies. The shade provided (and lack of concrete) create a cooler microclimate, especially in cities. In a time of climate change and volatile temperatures this can greatly reduce cooling costs.
On that note, this style of growing food and incorporating edible plants into our landscaping are a key strategy for stabilizing our communities and region during a time of climate change. Droughts and fires in the southwest and inland northwest, hurricanes in the southeast, and flooding, blizzards, and tornadoes in the midwest are all wreaking havoc with industrial farming. Planting low maintenance, low water food plants is a sensible strategy to ensure that our communities will always have at least some food. It is also likely that as Christians we will be called to provide for more people made homeless and into refugees by these calamities. Preparing ahead of time, especially during this period of relative prosperity and stability, is a responsible and sensible thing to do.
Not all food forests are the same. They can be tailored to the needs of the community. For example, in smaller spaces the largest trees can be omitted. Designs can also focus on producing certain foods and can have different considerations for saving water and labor depending on the people it provides for.

Sources and further reading:
https://www.maximumyield.com/definition/3387/food-forest
https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/create-food-forest/
https://sustainableamerica.org/blog/the-rise-of-community-food-forests/

 
steward
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Looks good, great initiative!  

One suggestion might be to change the maintenance sentence to something like "Much like with any landscaping, upfront labor and water costs are necessary to get the plants established, but long term maintenance is minimal."
 
pollinator
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I would love to see the pamphlet when it's done.

When you mention bees and butterflies, your emphasis is on their role as pollenizers, but you might also mention the increase of wild birds and just the general beauty of the forest environment.

You could even refer to the garden of Eden as an intentionally designed food forest...
 
pollinator
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I think it's important to not minimize the maintenance aspect too much. I would rather work in the shade of trees, given a choice between that and the hot sun. And I'd rather work in a mixed environment as compared to a monoculture. So we could mention that it is pleasant and diversified work, maintaining a food forest. That doesn't necessarily fit onto a pamphlet.

I think the Garden of Eden and the idea of stewardship as a duty works.
 
pollinator
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Great write up and great undertaking.

The two things that come to my mind are to possibly replace references to 'climate change' with something like 'global instability' so as not to alienate anyone for whom 'climate change' is a bit of a trigger. I'd also include mention of the role of flowers (bulbs can replace/coexist with veggies and roses can be some of the shrubs) just to highlight the potential beauty in a way that suburban type people can understand as well as to generate some excitement from the inevitable avid flower gardeners.

Best of luck with the project and please do share the finished flyer and results.
 
James Landreth
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Thank you for the feedback and kind words, everyone! I'll post a final copy at some point. I've decided to print out some and post them at libraries and feed stores around here (without the religious overtones). I'll also bring them to a church presentation I'm making later this month
 
James Landreth
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Some folks showed interest in the idea of a food forest so I made this flyer about how to design and install one. Again, it lacks certain aspects of a perfectly permaculture food forest as it lacks things like nitrogen fixers (I may add them in, I just couldn't include everything or it would've been overwhelming). Here is what I have so far:

Steps to planting a food forest:
1. Assess the needs and resources of the community.
Does the community need the food forest to be low maintenance longer term?
Do they need it to save on water down the line?
Do they need food year round, or do they want the forest to produce only seasonally?
How large is the space, and how much labor will be available for installing and watering it the first few years?

2. What does the community like to eat?

In the Pacific Northwest we are capable of growing a tremendous variety of food (see bottom for a few examples). Are there any foods that people like but that are scarce or expensive? Examples include foods like persimmons, nuts, peaches, apricots (which don’t ship well and are better off the tree), and rarer foods that are sometimes culturally relevant such as hawthorn or quince.

3. What’s the space like where the planting will take place?
Is there full sun or is it shady?
Is it wet or dry?
What is the soil like? Is it sandy, or heavy clay?
Is there pollution? If so, what kind? Fruit is generally considered safe to grow on polluted soil, as it doesn’t imbibe most pollutants, but leafy vegetables have other considerations.

4. The process of actually planting generally goes as follows:
Cover the area with cardboard (this can usually be gotten for free from local businesses as they throw it away anyway). Cardboard smothers weeds, feeds worms, and helps build healthy soil.
Cover the cardboard with woodchips. These can often be gotten for free from PUD and local arborists and landscapers who need a place to dump them. Woodchips build soil and hold water during the dry season
(summertime in our region). They also insulate the roots of trees and shrubs during winter.
Punch holes in the cardboard (using a shovel) and dig a hole for each tree and shrub. Simply place the plant in the hole and back fill with the soil you took out. If the soil is not clay you can add compost. If it is clay the compost should go on top.
If the plant is coming out of a pot break up the roots before planting.
Water deeply at this point.
Cover the base of the plant with mulch, but don’t place mulch within a few inches of the base of the plant as this could cause rot.

5. The process of early maintenance is as follows:
Water each tree or shrub deeply once or twice a week during summer for the first two years of each plant’s life. After this water needs drop spectacularly in most cases.
In the spring spread a layer of compost on the mulch around each plant and water in to increase fertility. Other methods of fertilization can be used.

6. Long term maintenance involves replacing plants which have died (which does happen), deep monthly waterings during severe drought, and pruning. Pruning is another topic entirely but is not usually difficult or complicated.

Examples of fruit and nut trees that do well in the Pacific Northwest:
Peaches (curl resistant varieties like Frost and Avalon only), plums, pears, apples, quince, persimmon, medlar, edible hawthorn, apricots (puget gold; possibly others), gooseberries, currants, raspberries, blueberries (not very drought tolerant), goumi berries, silverberries, autumn olive, aronia berries, figs, mulberries, cherries, seaberries, chestnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, and some varieties of almonds.
 
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I recently found this new video from Geoff Lawton talking about Food Forests.  Geoff does an excellent job of describing how a food forest works and it's potential to solve many contemporary problems throughout the world  I got chills when I first watched it a few days ago, since then I've been sharing it whenever possible.

What I like about Geoff's presentation is his awe, wonderment and enthusiasm for the potential of the Food Forest.  I've been a permaculture enthusiast for several years now and I'm ready to engage at the level he's talking about.  But I wonder how it will be perceived by the masses.

My advice for your flier would be to distill it down even further.  Somehow encapsulate the potential in bite sized pieces.

here's the video


check out this awesome info graphic
food forest info graphic

Another thought that comes to mind is check out some of Paul Gauchie from Back to Eden gardening method.  He uses a lot of religious language in his permaculture.  I'm an atheist but this video tour of Paul's garden was very inspiring for me a few years back and was part of my introduction to permaculture.  But like Geoff, Paul has an infectious enthusiasm.


FYI I'm writing here because of a cross link from a similar thread I started this morning.
A Permaculture Resume?  What's Permaculture?
 
James Landreth
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I like the video but I wish he were using a temperate forest as an example. The subtropical one that it's set in is even more removed from the understanding of the people I'll be presenting to, unfortunately
 
Mike Jay
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I agree James.  When I first heard of food forests I thought it was trying to grow something in the deep dark woods.  Then after watching Geoff I thought "well, that's neat if you live in the tropics".  Now I'm doing one in Wisconsin but it won't be quite as lush as Geoff's.  Butternuts, hickories and mulberries as the canopy layer, berries and hazelnuts as the shrub layer and so on.  So it works here too (I hope) but it won't look quite as lush as in his videos.
 
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