Food Forests Maintain Themselves and Promote Community

July 18, 2017

The Beacon Food Forest in Seattle is another example of a successful urban food forest that contributes to the public.

When we talk about food forests, we must first grasp the exciting basic principles of permaculture that are based on a ethically whole-systems design approach that uses concepts, principles, and methods derived from ecosystems, indigenous peoples, and other time-tested practices to create sustainable human settlements and institutions. Although rooted in horticulture and agriculture, permaculture design is interdisciplinary, touching on a wide range of subjects including regional planning, ecology, animal husbandry, appropriate technology, architecture, anthropology, and international development.

Designing a garden based on the permaculture principles has many benefits. Each part of the system is designed to help support, enrich and maintain other parts of the system. This makes it possible to reduce the need for human work and instead rely on the systems’ already existing nature. 

Food forests are a growing concept that has made impact around the world by being another example of how a permaculture design system truly works. By combining aspects of the native habitat rehabilitation with edible forest gardening, food forests are finally being recognized as a real alternative to other agricultural settings. 

A food forest aims to imitate how the natural forest eco system works, which makes it possible to grow crops without having to maintain them. It is based on a gardening technique that use levels and therefore mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while bushes make up the lower levels. In a real forest no one is irrigating, putting compost or using pesticides, but the crops instead rely on the balance of the system. When a food forest is balanced the process happens by itself, crops grow and this also creates a natural habitat for wildlife. 

The Kidron Food Forest in Tel Aviv is one example of a food forest that can provide healthy, fresh food for the community while also reduce the many problems that come with industrial agriculture. Instead of disrupting already functioning ecological systems to create food, a food forest compliments the already established eco system. The idea is to turn a bunch of edible plants into a self-regulating forest and the organizer behind Kidron, Nimrod Hochberg, is implementing his knowledge to help turn part of a city park into a place to grow food. 

The Beacon Food Forest in Seattle is another example of a successful urban food forest that contributes to the public. Glenn Herlihy, who helped create the park's initial design, did so as a final project for a permaculture design class. The food forest invites residents, and even non-residents, to pick fruit and more from plants throughout the forest for free. 

Food forests are creating opportunity for sustainable local economies, communal life and wildlife rehabilitation. By focusing on the ecological and economical needs, the effects are real connections between people and a stronger community. Food forests have become a place for diverse residents, who live in the same city, to come together and meet through a shared passion. The successful food forests prove that permaculture ethics can be implemented on a larger scale. It is beneficial for communities in so many ways and it ultimately comes down to how much we care for the earth and for other people. It is time to recognize that we can’t work against nature and instead focus on the creative and intelligent ways to feed the population by using a holistic approach.