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March 2, 2019

The “Edible Gardens” that will help Restore our Planet’s Ecosystem. {Infographic}

 

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Humans get a bad rap these days for how we’re impacting the planet.

Deforestation, plastic islands floating in the Pacific, global climate change caused by mass burning of fossil fuels, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You might be left feeling like the best we can do is minimize our footprint, or take a “least damage” approach when making lifestyle decisions.

But there’s growing evidence that humans, through intelligent design, can actually restore ecosystems while yielding essential products for human survival.

Behold the food forest.

Food forests are productive forest ecosystems that mimic natural forests in diversity and resilience, but emphasize species useful to humans. You can think of them as edible gardens constructed out of perennial woody crops (fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, fruiting vines) in the form of a forest.

Nature favors this perennial woody model over annuals for several reasons: deeper root systems to withstand droughts, minimal soil disturbance, increasing supply of organic matter to soil through leaf drop, and more efficient capture of sunlight by utilizing vertical space.

These food forests are gaining attention in the regenerative agriculture movement. For example, Mark Shepard has a 103-acre farm in southwest Wisconsin based on a concept he coined “Restoration Agriculture.” In order to determine which productive species would thrive on his farm, he first studied nearby ditches. What is nature growing where water is abundant, without any help from humans?

Mark discovered a predominance of oak and hazelnut in the ditches. Bingo—hazelnut is already edible! But what about oak? While some varieties of oak are edible, it’s not considered a high-quality food crop for humans. At the genus level, the mighty oak has a relative that’s much more viable for agricultural purposes: the chestnut!

So, Mark Shepard set out to create a chestnut/hazelnut savanna using nature as the model.

Here are some simple steps you can follow to grow your own food forest and play your role in regenerating the planet:

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author: Brad Kaellner

Image: Author's own

Image: @ecofolks/instagram

Editor: Naomi Boshari

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ketreen Mar 4, 2019 6:52am

Right on, Brad! This is exactly my thinking. I have spent the past four years designing educational tools to teach about regenerative steps that individuals can take in this regard. I am working to inspire my neighbors to grow their own perennial foods, and to spread the word around the city of Providence, RI and beyond. Keep up the great work!

c101dreamer Mar 3, 2019 7:07am

Thank You for your efforts Brad!
We have a long way to go in this transition. A transition that will reconnect the forest web and reactivate its energy or grand function and what I feel is our intended function as a species with large brains, forward-looking eyes, and tool-making abilities… as stewards and caretakers of life.
Down with the lawn!

penner.v Mar 2, 2019 5:00pm

I like the simplistic approach, observing what is growing in the ditches and then put in desired and related agents. Also having less lawns and more food forests would be really awesome imo. Thanks for being so mindful about the future.
I hope soon we will be able to make food forests of our own here at gaiama.org .

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Brad Kaellner

Brad Kaellner is a permaculture-certified food forest aficionado who wants to replace all the resource-hungry lawns in the world with productive and ecologically supportive forests of food. You can connect with him on Instagram.