Food Forestry

 Food Forestry is the establishment of a diverse mix of long term, productive edible perennials, supportive self-seeding annuals, fungi, and soil life, to create a system that increases in productive capacity over time, with decreasing input from the caretakers. These spaces are designed to reflect and mimic the diversity and mosaic pattern of our local forests. With time, a climax food forest would look much like our historical native forests.
In their infancy and development phase, tree crops will require a certain amount of maintenance. Young trees need to be protected from deer browse, and while root systems are developing, some form of irrigation is often necessary, either actively with drip irrigation, or passively with swales and contour-based layout.
Fungi are a critical and invaluable component of any forest-based system. Where pasture soils are bacterially dominated, forest soils are fungally dominated, and as such fungi are needed to establish and develop the forest soil ecology. Mushrooms are merely the apple on the underground tree that is mycelium. This vast mycelial network is a critical component of the soil food web. It can even transmit nutrients from one side of a forest to another. Most cultivated fungi produce fruit within the first year or two, making them an excellent crop to have while a food forest is maturing. They provide an excellent use for hardwoods that are thinned in the establishment process.
Food forests tend to produce in increasing abundance from year to year as the plants mature and grow. The absence of seasonal soil disturbance allows root systems to thrive, and for a resilient and abundant soil ecology to develop. The systems are often so prolific that wildlife gleaning some of the crop is no longer a concern. The system provides nourishment both for its caretakers, and for the surrounding ecology. These spaces also provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
Pine monoculture plantation provides a dramatic backdrop for this dynamic polyculture; a maturing food forest space is pleasing to the eye, and much more ecologically beneficial. The diversity of form and function within a food forest provides resilience, great productivity, and beauty.