These are the steps usually involved in creating a food forest. So, your curious questions are also listed in the same order. Obviously, many of these steps can run parallel in practice, however for better understanding we are putting it in serial order.
a) Primary Purpose (Must-have): To achieve food self-sufficiency. Every food forest must also have a nursery, a seed bank and at least a small pond (if local conditions permit it).
b) Secondary Purpose (Nice-to-have): People are driven by various motives such as re- connecting with nature, live a peaceful natural lifestyle, inspiring other land custodians, creating a biodiversity park, earning income, to give back to nature / protecting wildlife, eco-tourism, conducting workshops for enthusiasts, nature cure centre, eco-school, etc.
Note: Un-focused purpose breeds confusion resulting in blurry design plan and leading to increasing your resources input. First step, make sure you have crystal clear purpose of creating a food forest. If you are razor focused with your purpose, take this challenge to write down your purpose in eight words or less. Example: Self-sufficient food forest to inspire other farmers
If you would have been convinced with the conventional farm, you would not be here reading this part. Debt, high water consumption, soil degradation and volatility of the farms due to climate change are some of the major problems faced by conventional farm custodians.
Conventional Agriculture is short-term pleasure oriented – followed by pain,
Food Forests demands hard work during transition followed by long-term sustaining bliss.
A food forest particularly provides these benefits compared to conventional food production:
a) Regenerative Soil: Conventional farm soil is degraded every year due to its practices, which is tried to be compensated by continuous external inputs (resulting in raised costs). Food Forests regenerates soil every year on its own after reaching stable state.
b) Self-Managed: Conventional farms have 3-4 months of farming cycles with intensive industrial energy and labor used to maintain, re-plant and de-weed continuously. A food forest is a self-managing unit – leaving only harvesting and pruning tasks (few hours per month) after reaching stable state.
c) Low Water Consuming: A food forest consumes upto 95% less water compared to a conventional farm; which is often water logged resulting in soil compaction. After stable state, a perineal food forest relies only on rain, pond and trenches to meet its water needs automatically.
d) Boost your Health: You eat what you grow. A food forest is full of perineal fruits and vegetables, consuming more of them boost your health immensely compared to consuming dairy, meat and grain products coming from conventional farm.
e) Climate Resilient: It is common to see change in weather, floods and strong winds in last several years. Being a mono-crop conventional farms are most vulnerable to climate change. A food forest has wind breakers and its multi-layered plant diversity makes it climate resilient.
f) Economically Viable: The best way to earn is not to spend your existing money. Conventional farm drains you with all external costs. In a food forest, all your external costs reaches to near zero in few years relieving you from ever-increasing deadly debts. In near future, there will be possibility of an extra earning just because your land has standing trees, which will be tracked by satellite remote images.
As much your resources (physical, communal and economical) can handle is suitable for a food forest. At minimum, you need a land to cover 2 canopy trees (~1000 square feet) with multiple layers.
Think opposite to conventional farm, so that your food forest thrive economically, not just survive.
Conventional farm focus on increasing income,
Food Forest focus on eliminating expenses.
Conventional farm earns from unknown people,
Food Forest earns from its own community created overtime.
Conventional farm relies on revenue from mono-crop in every 4 months,
food forest has a 7-layered output almost in every month.
Conventional farm has only one source of income – by selling quarterly produce,
Food Forest can be diverse in its earning; multiple produce per month, eco-tourism, workshops, eco-schools, etc.
Conventional farm earning comes from going outward (to the market),
Ideally food forest earning should come from people visiting inward.
When everyone owns a car in a city, it creates traffic. We need car riders as well along with car owners. In the same way, everyone need not to own the land. You anyway do not need land. All you need is access to food forest. Do not wait, just go for it. Join other like-minded people and convince a farmer or a land custodian to design food forest together.
Simply your lifestyle and reconnect with nature.
How? Change your habitual patterns in these three categories:
a) Changes that does not consume extra time and money:
- Diet Change: If you consume more perineal fruits and vegetables, you will think of growing more of them, helping food forest to become self-managed. Take only fruits till noon, big salad meal before lunch and dinner (switch all grains to millets and avoid consuming dairy and meat products).
- Find activities to sit in sun for at least 30 minutes everyday.
- Walk barefoot in organic soil or grass for at least 15 minutes everyday.
- Observe and explore the seasonal fruits in the market.
- Start making list of your favourite native trees (both fruits and non-fruits) by interviewing locals and search on internet.
- Find opportunities to sleep outside in open, whenever weather permits.
- Avoid taking any loans to remain free for future to present its best potential.
b) Changes that takes time but does not consume extra money:
- Diet Change: Consume more than 60% diet in raw form, and try fully fruits or juice meals in summer. Observe the changes in your body and lifestyle.
- Do your homework to pin-point your purpose of creating or accessing a food forest.
- Rethink if you really want to buy land or actually access to a food forest community.
- Daily read and watch videos about food forests.
- Find alternatives and replace all cleaning chemicals in your home with natural products.
- Be a minimalist: consume less and give it away anything that has not been used in last one year.
- Whatever space you get (backyard, terrace, etc), start experimenting with soil and seeds. Grow your food or micro-greens and observe carefully.
c) Changes that takes both your time and money:
- Invest in resources that leads you to freedom: Renewable energy, Rainwater harvesting, eco-house, etc.
- Transition your livelihood to earn from activities aligned with nature preservation.
- Be part of food forest eco-community or purchase your own land to design your food forest.
No, food forest are world’s oldest form of land use and most resilient agroecosystem, much older than agriculture.
We have been using grains and domesticated animals only in last 10000 years (just a fraction of human civilisation time). It gets popularised as a stable food for our survival. Something that can make us survive, does not mean it is healthy/best for long term. Various diseases started in humanity due to introduction of grains and domesticated
animals in last 10000 years.
Amazon rainforest was tweaked as a food forest, wherever human tribes were living. Our average age was 35 years in Horticulture era (30000 years of thriving human history before agriculture took over) compared to 28 years of average life in agriculture era. Agriculture destroys top soil and is the main reason of desertification and then the humans start looking for new soil by falling down forests to make new agricultural fields.
Grains (stored food) and cooked food is the main reason for the explosion of human population and more people means we need to grow more food. We have been trapped in this spiral downward loop to reach at this stage. Agriculture has allowed power structures to domesticate not just plants and animals but also humans - by enslaving our mind!
Particularly interesting that the horticulture society has far more free time to enjoy cultural activities (sing, dance, etc) and they have least hierarchal. This video shows the impact of our transition from horticulture society of food forests foragers (with longer age, less hierarchy, more cultural, free time, etc.) to the disasters of agricultural society (particularly grains and keeping animals).
The way forward for humanity to thrive and grow food is by growing food forests - intentionally grown forests with edible produce, but for that to happen, our eating habits has to be changed so that consumers start demanding the food - which is aligned to our body as nature is designed us.
Switch to at least 50% fruits & raw veggies diet every day, you will start growing food forest in your mind automatically.
Start small. Convince them to experiment with whatever small land you can get started. If that is not possible, then partner with another land custodian to learn from it. As much you observe and experience it in the land, as much you learn about the food forest.
To express oneself in best of their potential.
You will only be able to express yourself in best of your potential, only if you liberate yourself from the rigid systems. Food Forest will make you free for your food and housing.
You will be re-connected to nature – keeping you healthy and giving a platform to remove
social and systemic conditioning of systemic dependency.
Conventional Agriculture is energy or labor intensive,
Food Forests are design information intensive.
Just like a complex building cannot be made without its architecture plan, in the same way a food forest cannot be made without its design map.
If you dream to make self-managed and low resource consuming food forest, design will provide you first draft to get started. Design will inter-connect custodian needs with complex patterns of food forest. Designing helps to optimally use the natural resources of sun, wind and water and to allocate the elements as house, pond, vegetable beds, trees, etc. at right place. For ex: keeping the plants with high water needs near to water source or a wind breaker in the direction of strong wind. There are many such considerations that can be take together in the design map. Once you start practically implementing your design map, your observation will guide you to change certain elements in the design map – which will be easier to do on your draft version.
It all depends on your efforts and design plan. Once purpose is pin-focused, initial draft of design plan can be made in a 4-8 days. After that, it usually takes 1-2 months per acre to do earth and water works using heavy machines.
You can also start getting produce within 3 months just like normal farm as well. There are examples, where the land is transformed in forest looking in just 6 months. If your are transitioning from a chemical-based farm, keep 6 months extra for rejuvenating the soil by putting green manuring. Partial stable state with low labor and water consumption can be achieved within ~3 years. Full stable state can be expected to achieve in about 5 years in which nutrient and mineral cycle are in closed loop system.
Physical: Entry/Exit Gate, House, Electricity, Pathways, Mandela Gardens, Water Supply
Vegetation: Vegetables, Trees & Crops
Step 1: Draw your land area with its size. Mark neighbours on all sides (ex: chemical farm, road, etc.)
Step 2: Mark sun direction, summer / winter wind direction and slope.
Step 3: Mark all the non-moving existing elements. For ex: Water pump, pathway, electric pole, house, trees, etc.
Step 4: Write all the challenges from outside and within your area. Ex: wild animals from east side, strong wind from south, water shortage here, water logging area, etc.
Step 5: Decide entry point to the land and Place house, electricity. Place all the physical elements: Water source, electric supply, etc.
Step 6: Boundary
Step 7: Place vegetable raised beds near to house (with at-least 4 hours of sunlight)
Step 8: Place banana circles, Mandela gardens (Flower) & Trenches on whole land.
Step 9: Place fruit trees guilds.
Step 10: Review with others and keep upgrading until you are convinced to get started.