What is a Food Forest?

Food Forests, Permaculture, Self Reliance

As the world’s population rapidly grows and food waste and insecurity increases in communities across the globe, the solutions available to us have to be put into action as soon as possible. One of these solutions is food forests.
So, what is a food forest? Food forests are ‘gardens’ built to mimic the ecosystems from which these plants originate. In doing so they offer a sustainable and relatively low-maintenance solution to the cycle of food waste and food from emissions-intensive producers. 

So. What is a Food Forest?

In this article, we will explore what food forests are, and an example of a food forest’s design. We will then expand on and explain why in place of harmful industrial agriculture, food forests can provide; improved food production, quality, and sustainability for you and your community.

Gardening for Sustainable Production

You may be unfamiliar with the term food forest (or a forest garden), however, this method of gardening & food production actually dates back to ancient times. In the societies of the past, It was used to cultivate and yield harvests of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other organically-grown food.

Food forests are a type of garden that imitates patterns that occur in the natural environments of which the plants originate. This practice maximizes yield, light exposure, and biodiversity while reducing the effort required to maintain the garden.

Around the world, food forests are growing in demand in both suburban and urban communities. these populations face increased pressure to establish food sustainability/security and maximize the use of public land. This is an issue that food forests can definitely solve.

In comparison to other types of gardening and farming, food forests are able to yield more. This is due to their three-dimensional configuration, which means that food grows vertically and horizontally instead of strictly from the ground. This configuration enables you to take advantage of all the space in your garden while preventing pests and other harmful species from thriving.

Food Forest Design

A food forest’s design usually emulates a natural ecosystem. As such, it also matches its structure to that of a natural forest, which has 8 layers that serve as a home for all of the wildlife within the specific ecosystem. The layers include the;

1. Canopy

This layer is composed of the tallest trees in the garden, such as fruit trees and nut trees like walnut trees. This layer receives the most amount of sunlight.

2. Understory

This is the layer occupied by medium-sized trees that can tolerate an environment with a lesser amount of sunlight. One example of these medium-sized trees is an apple tree.

3. Vines Layer

This layer is composed of plants that climb the trees in the canopy and understory, these plants can typically tolerate more shaded conditions. One example would be grapevines.

4. Shrub Layer

This layer is primarily inhabited by short trees, leafy plants, and shrubs that bear fruit such as currants.

5. Herbaceous Layer

This layer provides the ideal conditions for a lot of herbs and other perennial plants like asparagus, chard, and comfrey.

6. Ground Cover Layer

This is the layer that is best suited for grasses, crops, and plants that grow horizontally. A few examples include; strawberries, squash, and mint.

7. Rhizosphere

Root crops, such as carrots, turnips, beets, onions, and sweet potato as well as annual plants occupy this layer of the forest.

8. Mycelial Layer

This layer of the forest is home to many species of mushrooms & fungi that are native to the region. It acts as the natural composting mechanism that woody plants rely on to break down the old plant matter and fertilize the surrounding soil. Mycelia are the extension of the roots system.

Why Should You Grow a Food Forest?

Because you will fall in love with it! Food forests offer a sustainable and cost-effective way to cultivate human food production. Because of its design and the abundance of perennial plants, the garden’s soil need not be fertilized and watered frequently because

it retains nutrients and water better compared to farm soil and traditional garden soil, which are exposed to debilitating weather conditions.

So, to answer your question of “what is a food forest?” This ancient method of gardening is the answer to the woes of urban food insecurity, helping communities grow their food for free and sustainably while providing additional green space in urban areas.

Let us help you! Would you like to have a food forest of your own, but are unsure of where or how to start?

Our experts at Food Forest Abundance are be able to craft a blueprint for you to build off of, and with our team of contractors, we can have it built for you too!

What is a Food Forest?

A food forest is thoughtfully designed to produce maximum nutrition, beauty and abundance.