– What is a food forest? Well, we’re all quite
familiar with forest, and forest as an eco-system
with great diversity of plants, animals, and fungi all
harmonizing together and inter-reacting in many,
many niches and layers. Designed by nature, maintained as a system in perfect balance. Well imagine that, as a
system that produces food. The majority of the elements in that system being productive. That’s a food forest. So by understanding how
nature designs forest systems, so they’re self maintaining,
self replicating, we can model that system
with productive species. So that we can produce food
in the most sustainable way, with the minimum amount of input for the maximum amount of output. Anywhere in the world,
that’s a food forest system that we can actually design and work with in long-term, and permanent situations. All forests have layers, so you start off with a canopy layer, that’s
the top of the forest. Then you have understory
layers, and under those, you have bush and shrub layers, going down to herbaceous layers,
which are non-woody plants. And then, you have a root yield. You have plants that actually
have large, starchy roots. And then on the ground,
you have ground covers, and you also have a
vertical layer of climbers. Now all forests have those layers. In the tropics, you can
have emergent palms, and understory palms. And you can have slight
variations in different climates. But you have a basic set of layers that occupy all the space. When we design a food forest,
we put that layering system into action to our benefit, for production and
maintenance through function. Here in the sub-tropics, you have tamarillo as an an understory. And you have taro, and cocoa yam, and cassava as a root yield. That changes from climate to climate. Then you have understory productive trees, like feijoa, guava, and citrus, and large herbs like bananas. And then you have support species, like the ice cream bean and
the tipuana tipu and casuarina. They’re large trees, but they continue to support the forest by cycling nutrient. You also have understory nitrogen fixers. Like the acacias, and the leucaena, and the acacia, and albizia species. They’re all really good, fast functioning, fast carbon pathways that fix nitrogen and can be chopped to the ground for mulch as the space that they’re occupying can be taken up by the productive species. Here we have rose apples, mulberry. We have large legume trees,
and we have large fruit trees. So you have jackfruit, the
largest fruit in the world. We have bunya pine, a very large nut. But we also have pecan, which is a nut tree here
that’s also deciduous, loses its leaves in winter. Then we have your classic mango,
as a large overstory tree. These are all space occupiers in a system that’s incredibly stable when all the layers are complete and occupied. We can plant food forests
by planting support species at the same time as the fruit trees, and managing the support species to shelter and boost
the productive species. Or we can just plant the
pioneer support species until we get a stable canopy. But we don’t want to
go the other way round. We don’t want to start
with a productive species and work hard with lots of input to keep them in a healthy state. The support species do the work for us. It can be up to 95% of the
mass in the early years are the legume trees and
the mulch producing trees that produce the biomass. We prune these, and these trees
shed nitrogen to the soil, because they have relationships,
they’re classic pioneers. And most are nitrogen fixing species, in other words, they have
rhizobium bacterial partners in the soil that take nitrogen
from the air in the soil, and bring it into their plant bodies. And they then eventually die, and that nitrogen is added to the soil. Now we can speed that process up. We can sacrifice those
species with good timing after we’ve put them
into relative placement. So over time, the species we sacrifice open up opportunities for
our productive species. They shelter and support
and provide the fertilizer, the soil conditioning, and the hummus. So we stack the system in space, but we prune in relation to time. So we wait for the time of year when there is more
rainfall than evaporation. After the period where it’s
been dry, and the evaporation is higher than rainfall, there we need shade. And we leave the shade up. But as soon as the rainfall gets heavier, and higher than the evaporation, we can start to cut and open
up light avenues and space for our productive species
to take up the gap. Now over time, when we
get to establishment, we’ve got less and less mass
in pioneer support species, and more and more mass in
the productive species. And we end up with the reversal of mass. We have 95% productive,
and only 5% in support. So we don’t just stack in
space, we stack in time, and we speed up the process. These legume support trees
have been cut off as pollards may look a bit harsh, but they
very quickly start to regrow. You can see here, little
shoots coming everywhere. And they’re all the same. With the regrowth, we
get a beautiful shade. Now that’s handy in the hot time of year when we got a lot of
evaporation over rainfall, and it’s actually a nurse
crop for your fruit trees when they’re young. Later on, we may cut them more regularly, and keep feeding the soil. And eventually, we may cut them out. A lower cut, that’ll
shoot a few more times. We’ll keep adding that
mulch, and eventually, we’ll cut them at ground level, and not allow them to grow leaves. So they actually die out. It’s our choice. We’re actually manipulating the forests so that it grows in our favor
towards productive species. We change the way it grows in our favor. So here you see the pollard regrowth. And in just a few months,
in the subtropics, you can gain all this wood. It might be once a year
in a temperate climate, once every six months, every
three months in the tropics. You’re working with the cycles
of the forest within climate, so you’re feeding the soil
with the fallen forest, and you’re designing the
way the forest falls. We can use animals to help
us establish food for us. We can graze with larger
animals, then they have to be out of the way, because we’re
putting the small plants. We can put in poultry, chickens and ducks, and they can prepare the ground. And then later on, when the trees are up, we can bring in maintenance cycles of chickens and ducks
to speed the system up. And that way, we can use our animals to gain an advantage
while they’re productive for us at the same time. I’m sitting in a food forest
that’s been recovered by ducks. This section here was
well out of maintenance and had quite a lot of
long, clumping grasses, and unwanted plants we call weeds. We’ve put a fence around
it, a temporary fence, electric fence, but we
haven’t even electrified it. We put in 100 or so Mascovy ducks. In just over three weeks,
they’ve totally changed the area. They’ve ate most of the green material. They’ve flattened out the grasses. They’ve manured the ground,
they’ve conditioned the soil, and it’s ready for replanting with the support species and interplants, and fruit trees where there’s gaps. Taking this time advantage,
this process of dynamic event, we can now jump in, and put
in a whole assembly of plants that’ll bring it to a diverse,
interactive stability. And possibly go right
through to maintenance without ever needing this
event to happen again. This is taking time advantage
from an animal interaction to a replant, which we can do anytime we slip up on our maintenance. Just three weeks ago, the ducks were here. Now it’s recovered. We’ve planted in the support
species and extra fruit trees. We’ve established extra ground covers, and we’ve got a little foot path surrounded by wood
prunings, branch prunings right the way through on contour. It’s on its way, and it’s probably going into a permanent stable
system from here on in. Food forests function
as a living eco system. And they are so diverse, and so stable. And there is nothing like
this in modern agriculture. Nothing as diverse, nothing
as stable, nothing as fertile. The production of soil is constant. The fertility is constantly increasing. The diversity of production is nonstop. So with a food forest system, you have a system that
self replicates over time. There are no systems that produce as much per square meter for the
smallest amount of input. This is a system that is proven. Even in urban agriculture. Many people have heard my quote, “You can solve all the
world’s problems in a garden,” but what a lot of people don’t
know about that quote is, I’m referring to food forests. They will work anywhere. And these systems give us
permanent security, worldwide. We just need people to
realize that if we all move in this same direction, we can
solve all the worlds problems in our food forest gardens,
and supply all our needs without causing any damage whatsoever. In fact, we, humanity, can be the most beneficial
element on this planet.