What are the main goals of Food Forests?

To create a diverse healthy food (and other useful products) production system throughout the year by replicating the functionality of a natural forest.
It is not the intention that each individual species produces as much as is possible in a monoculture orchard model, but that the total productivity of the whole ‘forest’ system will be significantly higher, in terms of quantity, and the amount of energy required to maintain it.food_forest_john_button

How do they function?

The concept behind Food Forests is that natural forests are highly productive in their own right, and totally self-sustainable over extremely long timeframes.
So, by following the functional patterns that exist in a natural forest and adapting them to the conditions of light and space that each species need in order to be productive, we can create very low maintenance production zones that are essentially harvest systems.
Each element in the system is selected and placed in relationship to other elements so that they are as much as possible, mutually self-supporting in terms of nutrient and space-sharing.  forest_garden

Are there any concerns about people abusing the food forests?

This is a confusing question for me.
The same factors relate to food forests as with any other landuse.
There’s the possibility of introducing species that might be problematic (invasive, poisonous, and so on); people can fail to follow the patterns well, by planting so closely that there is not enough light and space for flowering and fruiting, and so minimum productivity in terms of harvest; or fail to create enough access ways for harvesting and maintenance, so that the forest is only a forest, without the food product!forest-garden

What does the future of food forests look like?

As the limits and negative consequences of conventional ‘modern’ agricultural systems become more widely recognized in the context of a growing population with increased food and other existential requirements, the need for high production but sustainable systems grows.
Since these tree-based systems have been proven to be both highly productive and long-term sustainable, it seems that their future is guaranteed as offering both material benefits and environmental one on a broad scale. food-forest

When did food forests begin? How have they grown recently? How many are there?

Robert Hart, an Englishman (1913-2000) has sometimes been credited with developing the concept, but he in turn was inspired by others before, primarily written works describing systems in Japan, Sri Lanka and Kerala in India.
However human agro-ecology systems have been existent in many other traditional societies such as Java, Bali, central and south America, New Guinea.
The forest garden concept has been popularized recently through Permaculture, Regenerative Agriculture, Agroecology, and similar systemic approaches to agriculture and food production.
Considering this long historical existence of food forests, there are thousands of food forests throughout the world.
The popularity has been increased by the recognition of the patterns that are similar in many differently named successful sustainable tree-based production systems.forest_gardens

John Button

Beginning his academic studies in Economics at the University of Tasmania, John Button has been working in his profession as a Permaculture designer, consultant and practitioner for the past forty years, initially as a means to establishment his own land on ecological principles towards self-sufficiency and then, as a result of the success of those applied experiments, into a fully professional role as designer, teacher, consultant, and project coordinator. This work has taken him all over the world, with the only exception being the North American continent. From sub-arctic Russia, through most climatic zones wet and dry, mountain, desert and coastal through to the wet tropics. This work has taken place through equally diverse cultural scenarios, providing him with the scope to hone very adaptive social skills along the way. During that time, he has worked with NGOs, government organizations, tertiary and non-formal education institutions, private landowners and communities, rich and poor, as volunteer and activist as well as a professional.

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Greg O'Neill

Hi, is it possible to connect with John Button to dialog on global collaboration to bring food forests to many nations by setting up a training center, and a colloborative effort to save plant allies of value for fiber, food, medicinals, timber, fragrance, and to create places of great beauty to inspire others to do this much needed work? Friends in Piacenza tell me there are thousands of villages in Italy now abandoned, or with only the elderly living in them now, with young people going to the cities where this Covid-19 virus is hitting hard now, can we work together to bring new life to those villages, and to encourage the young people to return to them? Likewise, a friend in Russia, tells me there are over 36,00 abandoned villages there, he has plans to tackle turning them into eco- villages, and food forests. Global collaboration is very much needed now.

    Giuseppe Tallarico


    As the General Manager of World Permaculture Association, I am excited to hear your interest in collaborating on global efforts to bring food forests to many nations. I believe that setting up a training center and a collaborative effort to save valuable plant allies for fiber, food, medicinals, timber, fragrance and to create beautiful places can inspire others to join this important work.

    I will definitely reach out to John Button and explore the possibility of connecting with him to discuss this further. The idea of revitalizing abandoned villages in Italy and Russia through food forests and eco-villages is a great one and I believe that global collaboration is crucial in making this happen. I will keep you updated on any developments in this regard.

    Thank you for your support and I look forward to working together on this important initiative.

    Best regards,
    Giuseppe Tallarico, General Manager of World Permaculture Association.

John Black

I watched some videos and got the book Gaia’s Garden, and I am planning my food forest. I found that my yard has green netting in the soil about 2 inches down. Do I need to remove the netting from the soil to grow bushes, herbacious plants, roots, etc.?

    Giuseppe Tallarico

    As the general manager of the World Permaculture Association, I can say that any type of barrier or obstruction in the soil can potentially impact the growth and development of your food forest. It’s important to thoroughly assess the condition of your soil and address any issues before planting. In this case, it may be necessary to remove the green netting in order to create optimal growing conditions for your plants. However, it’s also important to consider the purpose of the netting and if it serves a specific function in your yard before removing it. It may be best to consult with a local permaculture expert or landscaper to get a professional assessment and advice for your specific situation.

    Giuseppe Tallarico


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