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Food Forests

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Also known as Forest Gardening, or Agroforestry, this is the most sustainable and healthy way to operate a small-scale permaculture farm. The act of growing a food forest has rapidly become the future for small-scale farmers throughout the world, with implementations being made in nearly every environment!

Essentially, it is a variety of plants grown together under the shade of old growth trees, in order to produce an immense amount of food for the grower with minimal maintenance. In areas with no older trees, pioneer trees should be stared as soon as possible to provide shade.Throughout history, there have been places where food forests supported entire populations!

The most important part of adapting a food forest to your specific location is simple, start by growing only what you know to grow in your climate. This can be achieved through your own trials, as well as a realistic view of what you should plant. You should focus on perennial growing trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables. Through the use of microclimates, many diverse plants have been allowed to grow in unassuming places!

Growing a food forest is actually the most ancient form of farming, and has always utilized the same basic methods. You need to focus on providing ample growth for each of the seven necessary layers as first described in our modern era by permaculture pioneer Robert Hart.

The Seven-Layer System of Forest Gardening is as follows:

  • Canopy (Large nut or fruit trees, old growth should be used when starting)

  • Low Tree Layer (Small/Dwarf fruit trees)

  • Shrub Layer (Berry bushes)

  • Herbaceous (Herbs, Vegetables)

  • Rhizosphere (Root Vegetables)

  • Soil Surface (Ground cover plants)

  • Vertical Layers (Vines, climbers, ie: melons, beans)

If you envision the seven layers in action, you will see that each layer benefits another, and as such companion planting comes into full effect in agroforestry. Plant things that will support and benefit each other.

In time, a food forest should be able to supply nearly every meal for the grower. As well as the loads of health benefits that come from eating food from your locality.

On a homestead, this is an excellent way to be able to support yourself financially by selling excess food that you grow!

Food Forest, Agroforestry, Forest Gardening... whatever you call it, this is truly the future for sustainable living on an ever changing planet.

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