Nature’s Copycat: Food Forests

Nature’s Copycat & Your Potential Buffet: All About Food Forests

One of the most important and thought-provoking concepts in life is just how profoundly interdependent we all are on one another, particularly in the area of food production. We rely on one other for varying services and goods, with each individual offering their own indispensable part to the harmoniously maintained whole. In the hectic nature of daily life, this fact can be easily forgotten.

Due to miracles of modern medicine, the world’s population has exploded in ways that would likely seem unfathomable to our ancestors. To meet the survival needs of this population increase, food production has steered towards mass, monocultural methods of cultivation. For purposes of maximizing profit and yield, pesticides and plant patents were introduced to most mass horticultural procedures. This system has sustained population growth, but the public health costs are worrisome and arguably unsustainable. Food cultivation is presented with a challenge, and every challenge necessarily creates opportunity.

We believe that one opportunity may lie in food forests.

Tanglao, Roland. “Food Forest at Cedar Cottage Community Garden.” Digital image. Flickr, 27 May 2011,

Food forests arise from the concept of permaculture (or polyculture), which emphasizes the creation of an ecosystem that fosters a harmonious, self-sustaining environment for plant species. Interdependence is a natural tenant of human culture, and we believe that our food production should reflect a similar relationship. An effective food forest fosters a nutrient-rich environment for self-organizing plant communities which consist of several species who mutually benefit from one another.

There are seven layers to an advanced food forest: canopy, low tree layer, shrub layer, herbaceous layer, root crops (sometimes called rhizosphere), soil surface, and vertical layer. Although all seven layers are not required, the inclusion of more layers presents the plant community with greater opportunity for self-sustenance. Each layer possesses a morass of opportunities for planting species which will mimic a natural forest. No pesticides. No disease. No soil exhaustion. Just a natural, self-maintaining ecosystem.

“The seven layers of the forest garden.” Digital image. Wikipedia, 28 March 2006,


The canopy presents opportunity for fruit bearing-trees such as pear, peach or apple trees; one could similarly plant nut-producing trees such as walnut or almond trees. The low tree layer could be home to plum or nectarine trees, and the shrub layer could be the new home for delicious blackberries, blueberries or raspberries.

The herbaceous layer is fertile ground for daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and more. By planting bulbs (e.g. chives, daffodils, garlic) around the base of the tree, you can naturally suppress the growth of unwanted grass and naturally repel pests! You might consider planting nitrogen fixers (e.g. peas, clovers, lentils) which will borrow nitrogen from the surrounding air and provide it to your plant community.

We believe that our food and surrounding ecosystems should reflect the interdependent nature of human culture. By incorporating such a harmonious plant community into your food forest, you can create a self-maintaining horticultural environment with minimal effort and maximum yield.

The opportunity is there. The secret lies in thoughtfulness and synergy.

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