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Posts: 102
Location: Sudbury ON, Canada
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Hi all,
Please dont take offence, this is an honest question.
Whats the difference between a Food Forest and an Orchard?
Posts: 1530
Location: northern California
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My take is that an orchard is a plantation of useful trees, usually of one or at most a few species, managed primarily or exclusively for the yield of edible fruit or nuts from those trees. Anything else growing or living in the area is considered marginal, except insofar as its presence might benefit the yield of the primary tree crop.
A food forest by contrast is an area with many different species and types of plants and animals, many, but not necessarily all, edible and/or useful to people; and the area is managed to optimize the total yield of useful stuff from the area, as an area, without necessarily having a preference of one yield over another. The yield of goat milk or hen eggs produced from animals ranging in the area might be every bit as important as that of apples or chestnuts, even if apples or chestnuts are the biggest and most abundant plant in there....
Posts: 165
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Here are a few links to get you started:

Permies thread on converting orchard to food forest
Another page on food forests

Very basically- an orchard tends to be a monoculture tree crop, or maybe a mixed crop. Think of an apple orchard- evenly spaced trees, pruned to a very specific height and shape, with very little else growing. Some orchards will be mixed- apples and pears for instance. Or fruits and nuts growing together.

A food forest is a multi-layered planting that includes a variety of different food trees (fruits, nuts) as well as shade, medicinal, N-fixers, and mulch trees. Also, vines growing up the trees, bushes on the ground, root crops, herbs, etc. All growing on different levels.

An orchard is easily legible- you look out and see that there is one thing growing out there and it's all ripe at the same time and it's lined up nice and neat.

A food forest is illegible if you don't know what you're looking for. Multi-layered, multi-species, and very complex.
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