“A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals,” writes Beacon Food Forest co-founder Glenn Herlihy. In other words, this community garden will produce food in the canopy, at the shrub level, in the shady understory, and even from vines that twine their way through the edible jungle.
Food forestry is a concept borrowed from permaculture design; a holistic approach to developing human settlements where gardens, homes and neighborhoods are patterned on the principles of ecology. The intent is that the resources necessary to sustain each of these are produced within a self-contained system.
“Food forests are designed to take care of themselves once they are established, like any naturally occurring forest,” says Melody Wainscott, Beacon Food Forest’s media coordinator. That means minimal watering, weeding or fertilizing—aspects of conventional food production practices that consume a large share of the earth’s resources.