I own 6 acres (I do not live on site) that is allready in forest but is thick 20 year cutover that was not managed properly. It is in a rather depressed area and my idea is to create a food forest with a focus on mostly native species (central North Carolina) that are edible for people in the neighborhood. The good news is that it naturally reseeded with good diversity as nature does but I want to introduce some fruittrees and bushes, herbs etc. The property is a pyramid shape with the tip pointing north and flat then gently sloping down to a creek/ wetlands at the base. The slope faces south. I have read and watched much on permaculture but have yet to find specifics on how to plan an actual planting or take a poorly managed forest and turn it into a food forest. People tend to talk in generalities and concepts but rarely show an example other than rainforests in other countries or someone planting a garden and calling it a food forest here in the states. Advice and opinions on the subject would be appreciated.
It sounds like you really want this place to be a comfortable and useful space for the neighbors.. If you havent read A Pattern Language, it might be helpful even though the specific pattern is talking about houses, it can refer to any space designed for social gathering.
1: document as many species on site as possible, for as long as possible
2: decide what stays and what goes (if you're trying to design for the neighbors, it may be worth asking them what they'd actually harvest)
3: decide and design any earthworking (swales, ponds, drainage, etc.) may be unnecessary
4: remove trees you don't want, use the wood or plug with mushrooms, chip/shred the branches and shrubs and make stropharia beds in moist places
5: establish groundcover in the newly sunny sections (strawberries?)
6: plant the shrub/tree guilds you have designed for the site, along with support species (nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators), alternately you could take a slower approach and plant wildcrafted seed as you collect it and buy seedlings from the NC forest service, overplant and thin as things grow up. This way you can slowly plant more intensively in small areas with more sensitive species (apples, blueberries, figs, etc.), and leave the support species in the margins.
If you want to focus on NC natives I'd suggest mulberry, pawpaw, persimmon, and possibly muscadine (requires more maintenance to maintain production). Pecan might work well also.
I know of a couple food forests in the Asheville area, but they're not documented online that I know of. Charlie Heddington has a well designed backyard forest in Greensboro. Will Hooker teaches permaculture at NC state. He's a really nice guy and may give tips and advice if you contact him. There is also an online video series of a course he taught that includes tours of his yard and Heddington's place.
Oskar, I checked out some of Will Hooker's stuff and he looks like the man I have been looking for. I am finding that while there are many people that are interested in the permaculture there a few that have actually done it ( that are known at least). I am also surprised that this concept has not taken hold among more charitable organizations with these types of systems being set up in areas of need. I wil make sure that I document and follow up with my progress so that others can learn from my experience.
Graham, that looks like a good read, its on the list
Saybian, I have seen that DVD pop up in my research and it looks interesting.