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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! long-term lessons from food forests--failures and successes both?

 
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Boston Food Forest at the Nature Center:

--most of the nut and fruit trees have died.
--of those who didn't die, only a few apples came to fruit
--the [probably] neglected pawpaws growing nearby in the shade were getting big and looked like they're thriving, but no fruit yet either
--rehabilitated old apple trees had done well for a year or so after cardboard sheet mulching and white clover, but they had gone back to basically no productivity by 5 years later
--perennials in the ground layer (e.g. comfreys, mint, tansy [weed that's abundant there anyway but useful], poison ivy) all gangbusters
--hugelbeds did pretty well for annuals, without any watering: and these were only 2' tall max.

--my conclusions:
--transplants won't survive if not tended; all-volunteer garden space in poor soil was not enough to make it work
--an all-volunteer organization has a wonderful feeling of cameraderie and energy in planting trees, but it isn't effective enough that you can bank on it/eat it.  
--If we'd planted a seed alongside every transplant, the seeds would have overtaken the transplants long ago, not to mention having a stronger system (I assume, based on Paul going on about taproots a gazillion times and the fact that the oak and wild walnut right near our nut trees have been producing voluminously the entire time)
--a nutcracker is worth a thousand bad food forests for nutritional value
--these lessons are hopefully more valuable having been learned through experience than if we'd simply read them, but I'm not sure how well we're doing at perceiving the feedback lucidly and really getting the accurate conclusions
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Arlington Orchard

context: one person, an edible landscaper/permaculturist, planted these, probably they were suprlus trees in an unusued/unusable city lot, and tended them quite regularly and diligently; a few volunteers helped out once in a while but mostly I think it was just him
age: 3 years?
yield:
fruit/nuts: almost nothing, a very few persimmons on occasion, tiny number of apples.  [Lots of wild mulberries, lots of black locust seeds from volunteer pre-existing condition trees.]
herbs, veggies: kale is abundant and self-seeding, herbs great, cilantro/coriander abundant, scallions
Some apple trees have died, some peach trees.  It is more of an orchard format than a food forest/jungle.  There are herbs around each tree, but they are in rows of all one thing (e.g. apple, persimmon, asian pear), and the municipal public works guy has to be able to mow in between the rows, I think that's part of their deal.  It doubles as a public park.

Pollinators are loving it.

Lesson:
-- I assume: don't plant transplants, unless, again, you also plant seeds.  Maybe some more soil-buliders needed (good ol' comfrey, even just pokeweed, but it scares the neighborhood).  
--even with one person responsibly tending it consistently, it can still disappoint
--lots of irrigation can still fail to keep transplants happy in poor soil
--maybe more listening and learning from experience from around the globe would have helped.
--it's not too late, maybe some seeds have evevn dropped by now and started moving things in a better direction? I wonder if you abandoned it for 50 years and came back whether there might not be a thriving food forest after all
--the mulberries on the volunteer tree are damn good.



 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Can anyone tell what made these long-term successful ones work:

--300-year-old food forest in Vietnam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZO0Nco2t5g
--2,000-year-old one in Morocco: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKIgqa49rMc
--John Hershey plantings/breeding research, from the 40's or so and abandoned for many decades now:
--Helen Atthowe's food forest
--whatever the heck Sepp Holzer does
--your own experiences
--random trees in someone's yard that always kick ass
--any other food forests or just individual trees that have passed the 10-year mark, or ideally the 50-year mark, and are productive of a significant portion of at least one person's nutritional needs per year

Social factors as well as physical.

Also, please specify if you're describing your own direct observation, video observation, reading, or other.  Thanks!
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Also,

Seattle Food Forest people, what's the lateset update?

Tripple Brook Farm--what's made that last?  are you still using the controversial stuff you advocated a few years ago?

Corsica--really, wtf Corsica, I hate you.  I just. Hate. You.  OK what's your secret

North America--there was a chestnut blight over a hundred years ago, why with the power of the Death Star can we still not have a chestnut tree that is f(&*^-ing productive I do not understand
 
pollinator
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My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P
 
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elle sagenev wrote:My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P



Are there any native trees you could plant as a windbreak and source of mulch? Perhaps building the soil, water, and preparing the site for a few years might help. Are you giving up on a food forest?  That sounds like a challenging climate. .
 
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I think those two food forests likely did better just because they predate climate change & colonial era invasive species introductions?

Two things I've learned about that in the last year- it takes trees 10-20 yrs before they start working as a carbon sink, depending on the species. Ground cover plants seem to do a lot better, as evidenced by how well & quickly soil builds in such environments. Secondly, most of the tree planting that's been done for decades does nothing. Logging companies tend to want to replant all the same 2 or more tree species as cheaply as possible (I guess other companies/ organizations that just want to seem "green" will pay for it, just to say they had a hand in it, but probably don't control what actually gets planted), then reharvest these replanted forests within 10 years, so that has effectively been damaging the environment more & has done virtually nothing to prevent climate change all these years.

With the restoration work I'm doing the last couple years, I've had minimal success. I got two wintergreen plants to sprout, but did so in places they were unlikely to survive the heat long, I got a beech, plum & Eastern Sweetshrub to sprout, barely got the beech to survive an attack by a vicious road crew in the spring, only to have a once-in-a-decade railway repair team throw gravel & broken rail right on top of all three. I got some elder trees to sprout in some places & they're doing fine, as well as a couple Redbuds, I think (I later determined that there was an adult redbud nearby, which accounted for at least one I found that was still young, but much bigger than expected. Still, there were also about three new seedlings.) I transplanted 6 plants I bought, which I was told were Virginia Groundcherry. Only two survived. Neither managed to flower or properly fruit last year. And, one of the first things I ever tried- I sprouted an American Holly bush, which is actually doing pretty well. First couple of years, it would get ashy white leaves. I wasn't sure if that was a disease, or not, but I picked them off whenever they presented themselves. It hasn't been doing that for a while, now. You can't eat it, but I think it should be approaching time to fruit for the first time. I also had what I thought was a store bought cherry tree growing that I tended to & kept alive, only for it to turn out to be a crabapple. And, again in the non-edible category, I once gathered a bunch of seed fluff from some big ornamental sycamores across town & threw those around. A couple of those got into some surprising places, but several of them are growing pretty nicely. And, I saved an endangered Butternut from being strangled to death by invasive grape vines.

Biggest issue I am working on right now is cutting back the invasive species in the area. I have been pulled over by the cops once over it, but when I told them what I was actually doing, they gave me the go-ahead & left me alone. We have tons of Trees of Heaven, Japanese Honeysuckle, domesticated grapes & Multiflora Rose, plus way too many buckthorns. I can't tell if the buckthorns are native or not, but there are way too many of them in some places. I am attempting to just manage it naturally by continuously cutting growth back until the plant can't take it anymore- if you keep on it, it kind of works. The plant just gives up on growth for months at a time & decides to conserve it's energy, but will then explode in growth in a very unhealthy manner, which is likely even worse for it in the long term, if I keep cutting it down. It's just that the adult Trees of Heaven are too big for that sort of thing. I worked on managing many of the grapes last year & am now moving into a lot of the other plants over this winter.

All in all, it sucks. We have a lot of great native species which I've found so far, many of which are technically edible, if one were so inclined- Juniper berries, mulberries, cherries, crabapples, haws, strawberries, spicebush, butternut, hickory nut, maple, sassafras, black raspberries, dewberries, blackberries, yellowrockets, firethorn, nannyberries, mayapples, Solomon's seal, false Solomon's seal, Jack in the pulpit, peppermint, mountain mint, wood sorrel, yarrow, black locust, bamboo, etc (some of these are invasive/ introduced, like the grapes, but I'm only worried if it interferes with other plants' growing that I want there, or grows too voraciously). I've spent a lot of money, time & energy trying to plant more native species this year, but the weather is not cooperating with the concept of winter, which is necessary for many of them & I'm living alone for the first time- between my low paying job & prices rising, next year's money will be tight, though I doubt it will be impossible. I am pretty much living as cheaply as humanly possible where I do live, but was a bit upset to find that, out of my nearly $600 check I just got last Friday, I probably now have less than $30, but at least all my bills are paid for the month.
 
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It's odd to me that the fruit trees do so badly.
I have poorly tended trees in poor locations, but they are still yielding some fruit, some years quite a bit.
I do lose fruit to animals, which might be less of a problem if I had more trees, or it might be a bigger problem.

One of my fruit trees has companion plantings, the other two do not.
They all have composting pits of some kind nearby.

Raspberry and blackberry bushes thrive on neglect, I'm hoping to plant other berry bushes that do the same.
I have mustard that self sows and plenty of mint.
The comfrey grows well but not under the fruit trees.

I think the voles would be eaten/suppressed in a system that included running chickens or pigs under the trees.
This isn't usually workable in a public food forest.

Permaculture advocates observation.
Do we know what the  first year's of a 200 year old food forest looked like?
It might have included a lot of replanting, or 50 years of soil improvement.
I started with a peach tree,  not knowing how short lived they are.
It fed a lot of squirrels before it was killed by a neighbor.
New plants are selected with an eye to height and harvesting.
My place is tiny,  so it's always been on a journey towards Permaculture orchard more than food forest, but the self perpetuating ideal is nearly identical.
I am leaning towards a more managed ideal.
Not manicured, more like pruned annually.
I think we as a society could do that.
 
elle sagenev
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Jeremy Baker wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P



Are there any native trees you could plant as a windbreak and source of mulch? Perhaps building the soil, water, and preparing the site for a few years might help. Are you giving up on a food forest?  That sounds like a challenging climate. .



Water and pests are the biggest problems though climate doesn't help. My plum tree always flowers but it always flowers and then we get a freeze so all the blossoms die. It's a lose lose for me and I've been at it ages.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks everyone for sharing these observations.   It's really helpful to have some more hindsight in advance.

William, your question about the first 50 years is spot on. I would love to know that history. Even more so if it were a cold-climate food forest. Maybe Geoff Lawton has more notes he could share?  I would love to have a workshop that focused on this question.

I'm hoping to talk to Buzz from perfect circle nursery tomorrow, who salvaged seed from the Hershey nursery, I'll post here (assuming he's on with me sharing that).

The climate change piece is big.  Starting a food forest in wind is hard, establishing windbreaks can be costly but I guess if i know it's the price of entry then i can more peacefully accept it and just do it.

Any other success overstories to share (couldn't resist the pun!)?
 
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Elle, thanks for posting I recall your conundrum there, I hope something finally works out much better!
 
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Rather than buying plants, learning how to propagate plants has been the way to go. Depending on the species, it is at least 100x to 1000x cheaper on a per plant basis. When I got good at propagation it enabled me to have a near endless supply of plants, which changed my perspective on both the individual plants and the mass plantings within the food forest. Previously, when a tree died I experienced grief and loss, but now it's like no big deal and I just replant something different that might be able to better handle whatever killed the previous plant. Doing mass plantings of 100 or 1000 of a batch of seedlings is akin to sample size in a study, and the successes and failures gives me greater insight about the individual plants, the species as a whole, the site, my methods, etc.

As far as propagation goes, it seems like air pruner beds are better than in-ground beds, and both are better than pots. And fall plantings survive better than spring plantings.

To not get discouraged when I kill baby trees, I think about something I recall hearing Akiva Silver say, something like "Baby trees are super pathetic weaklings and they need a lot of help to survive in the early years. Some trees make millions of seeds per year and they live for hundreds of years, and only 1 or 2 of those seeds need to survive over the lifetime of the parent tree for the population to maintain replacement rate. If that's the measure of success, then it really gives you perspective on how much trees pretty much suck at life."

 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:North America--there was a chestnut blight over a hundred years ago, why with the power of the Death Star can we still not have a chestnut tree that is f(&*^-ing productive I do not understand



besides the obvious point that the power that the death star was noted for wasn’t exactly focused on producing productive, disease-free trees…

i know of a fair number of very productive chestnut trees. there are some pitfalls with chestnuts - siting is important. often with public-park food forest situations, people just have to try to fit in what they’ve got in the space they’re allotted. maybe you can’t avoid the frost pocket or whatever. it’s hard to balance what the individual trees need with what the city wants, with how we want people to interact with the space, etc. this point definitely relates to fruit trees, etc, too.

that and people can be very attached to cultivars/varieties. the chestnuts i know that do the best/taste the best/produce the best are all own-roots hybrids. maybe that giant-nutted italian cultivar isn’t really what’s called for in very un-italy-like locations? maybe focusing on having the largest possible percentage of american chestnut genetics doesn’t leave enough focus on really finding trees that are productive for your location (or act right in a food forest situation)? not trying to lay these comments at anyone’s door in particular, but issues i’ve run into more than once.
 
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1) It's a great space is inside boston city limit, with a heavy deer/animal population, every winter.
2) The trees are not planted in the fall where the root system has a chance to become established.
3) The trees are planted in late spring/summer and they aren't watered to get them thru the 1st year
4) Native like pawpaw survive but European imports like apple/pear/plum are very suspectible to pest and die quickly

Because of the unique space, I would recommend the following.

1) Setup a drip irrigation system
2) Setup a dutch clover lawn that is 6inch, for nitrogen and also so that the edible can be easily identified and taken care of by the groundskeeper
3) Plant more natives like: blueberry, raspberry/blackberry, persimons, pawpaw, elderberry, native grapes, maypop, native hazelnut, etc
4) Plant more exotics like: mulberry, figs, goumi, akebia vine, artic kiwi vine, honeyberry, yellowhorn nut
5) Avoid the European imports like apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, if you must plant the native or Asian species like beach plum, sand cherry, asian pear, etc
6) Don't accept the donation of half-dead trees in June and plant them
7) Plant in the fall for a better root system and less watering, and less deer/animal damage
8) Plant bare root, so that the plants are planted properly.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Thanks S. Bengi, are you referring to the Boston Nature Center space here?  I'm a little confused what the numbers correspond with.  

You've seen the Boston Food Forest over many more years, yes?  any thoughts on the social elements needed to get it working better/be drip irrigated regularly?

S Bengi wrote:1) It's a great space is inside boston city limit, with a heavy deer/animal population, every winter.
2) The trees are not planted in the fall where the root system has a chance to become established.
3) The trees are planted in late spring/summer and they aren't watered to get them thru the 1st year
4) Native like pawpaw survive but European imports like apple/pear/plum are very suspectible to pest and die quickly

Because of the unique space, I would recommend the following.

1) Setup a drip irrigation system
2) Setup a dutch clover lawn that is 6inch, for nitrogen and also so that the edible can be easily identified and taken care of by the groundskeeper
3) Plant more natives like: blueberry, raspberry/blackberry, persimons, pawpaw, elderberry, native grapes, maypop, native hazelnut, etc
4) Plant more exotics like: mulberry, figs, goumi, akebia vine, artic kiwi vine, honeyberry, yellowhorn nut
5) Avoid the European imports like apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, if you must plant the native or Asian species like beach plum, sand cherry, asian pear, etc
6) Don't accept the donation of half-dead trees in June and plant them
7) Plant in the fall for a better root system and less watering, and less deer/animal damage
8) Plant bare root, so that the plants are planted properly.

 
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greg mosser wrote:

maybe that giant-nutted italian cultivar isn’t really what’s called for in very un-italy-like locations?

I'd go a step further. My friends complain that my strawberries and raspberries are "so small" compared to "what the grocery store has". Then they taste them and it's like, "hmmm... yours taste better". We've got an industrial food system that's focused on keeping costs down, rather than keeping taste and nutrition up.  Most apples are at least 30% bigger now than when I was a kid. The nutritionists will tell you that most of the value in an apple is right below the skin - so look at how much more low-value insides a modern apple has compared to most older varieties.

However, these large cultivars come at a price to the plant - they need constant reliable watering which is *not* what food forests are expected to cope with. I don't water my raspberries while they're producing. IF we're having a really dry summer, I may give them a slow watering after they're done, so that they won't hurt themselves when they decide to bloom in the fall. I could prune off the flowers in the fall but a lot of insects live off the flowers and fruit at a time when there aren't a lot of other flowers to fill their bellies.

The point I'm getting at is that some of our expectations may be out of step between what a food forest will give us, compared to what a grocery store will sell us. So choosing what to plant is an important step and I've chosen to look for older cultivars where possible. I truly wish I was better at grafting and starting plants from shoots, but for whatever reasons, I seem to do poorly at it - or maybe unrealistic about what a normal survival rate is. I suspect at some point if I get exactly the right conditions/space to set up in, things will improve. IN the meantime, I've got 3 processes that are working well: 1. starting from seed and keeping the babies in a spot I will see them while going about other daily tasks, 2. A version of air-layering of putting a low branch into a pot with dirt and leaving it for a year or so and then cutting it off the branch, and 3. rescuing plants from other people.  

I would love to just put seeds in the ground and trust that something will survive, but so far any time I've tried, I got nothing. Most of the cases I've read that did that were starting with open land which I'm not. I need to find a variation on that theme, before trying it again.

I live surrounded by forest with the Doug Fir and Cedar 80 ft tall or more. Accepting that sunshine is going to be a major limiting factor is also important. Many of our food plants are "edge" plants or "colonizing" plants, so they want more light than I can easily give them. This will also impact productivity. Accepting that I will get less fruit and some years *much* less fruit than someone who has lots of sun and waters daily, is an exchange I'm prepared to make knowing that my trees are doing exactly what nature expects them to do - produce well when conditions are just right and conserve their energy when it's not. By planting a good variety both within a genus and between genera, I usually have something that does well. For example, I've noticed that the years that strawberries do really well, the raspberries tend to do poorly and vice versa.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Another factor pointed out to me by Patrick whose on here sometimes is that bacterially dominated soils are not so friendly to trees.  And most fields are more bacterially dominated--so when you go in and plant a tree in the middle of a field, it's got a hard slog.

Succession is another thing he mentioned.  

If the tree to starts out near the edge that handles a lot.

(Of course, I see trees getting started in fields all the time in New England, so it may be more fungal in general here...leave a hayfield for a minute and you'll come back to find it needs to be brush hogged.  But it's not the delicate peach tree that's leading the charge, usually, mulberries and black walnuts are the leaders here in my yard, with Norway maples oddly dying out before they can get two years old--I doubt I'm really plucking them that thoroughly.  So I'm getting productive trees as volunteers, but not the ones most people plant, certainly not the ones planted in the food forests.)

In the Arlington forest, the persimmons (native) don't seem to have yielded much of anything either.

I'm thinking that hugelbeds would be a good way of providing moisture, fungal environment, and temperature moderation for the tree next to it, and also a bit of shade even at certain times of day, like one succession effect, but. the sharing of nutrients through the fungal "wood wide web" factor is missing.  Planting at the edge might be better on the whole, and then cutting back the trees around the nut/fruit tree when it gets big enough might be helpful.  But this is speculation, not observation.
 
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mouth watering!  I love those tiny strawberries from the alpine regions especially, or wild ones if the conditions are right!  

What about the volunteer trees you get in your shady area, what kinds are they and which and how many tend to survive to get bigger?  

Jay Angler wrote:greg mosser wrote:

maybe that giant-nutted italian cultivar isn’t really what’s called for in very un-italy-like locations?

I'd go a step further. My friends complain that my strawberries and raspberries are "so small" compared to "what the grocery store has". Then they taste them and it's like, "hmmm... yours taste better". We've got an industrial food system that's focused on keeping costs down, rather than keeping taste and nutrition up.  Most apples are at least 30% bigger now than when I was a kid. The nutritionists will tell you that most of the value in an apple is right below the skin - so look at how much more low-value insides a modern apple has compared to most older varieties.

However, these large cultivars come at a price to the plant - they need constant reliable watering which is *not* what food forests are expected to cope with. I don't water my raspberries while they're producing. IF we're having a really dry summer, I may give them a slow watering after they're done, so that they won't hurt themselves when they decide to bloom in the fall. I could prune off the flowers in the fall but a lot of insects live off the flowers and fruit at a time when there aren't a lot of other flowers to fill their bellies.

The point I'm getting at is that some of our expectations may be out of step between what a food forest will give us, compared to what a grocery store will sell us. So choosing what to plant is an important step and I've chosen to look for older cultivars where possible. I truly wish I was better at grafting and starting plants from shoots, but for whatever reasons, I seem to do poorly at it - or maybe unrealistic about what a normal survival rate is. I suspect at some point if I get exactly the right conditions/space to set up in, things will improve. IN the meantime, I've got 3 processes that are working well: 1. starting from seed and keeping the babies in a spot I will see them while going about other daily tasks, 2. A version of air-layering of putting a low branch into a pot with dirt and leaving it for a year or so and then cutting it off the branch, and 3. rescuing plants from other people.  

I would love to just put seeds in the ground and trust that something will survive, but so far any time I've tried, I got nothing. Most of the cases I've read that did that were starting with open land which I'm not. I need to find a variation on that theme, before trying it again.

I live surrounded by forest with the Doug Fir and Cedar 80 ft tall or more. Accepting that sunshine is going to be a major limiting factor is also important. Many of our food plants are "edge" plants or "colonizing" plants, so they want more light than I can easily give them. This will also impact productivity. Accepting that I will get less fruit and some years *much* less fruit than someone who has lots of sun and waters daily, is an exchange I'm prepared to make knowing that my trees are doing exactly what nature expects them to do - produce well when conditions are just right and conserve their energy when it's not. By planting a good variety both within a genus and between genera, I usually have something that does well. For example, I've noticed that the years that strawberries do really well, the raspberries tend to do poorly and vice versa.

 
pollinator
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I had never heard the terms food forest or hugel mound before arriving at this forum and I'm kind of glad. I might have thought I needed to follow rules and recommendations or try to copy what someone in a far distant place in far different circumstances did and I'm sure it would not have worked.  I guess I ended up with what by some definition might be a food forest. I'm not saying information in books and instructions on what do, or plant isn't without some value, but my recommendation is pay attention to what nature in your location does. Or at least look for examples from environments that most closely match yours.

I see you are in zone 6b; I am too. I'm not going to tell you what to do because I don't believe in doing that any more than I believe in doing what someone tells me to do. But I will tell you what I did and for the most part that was to just plant stuff. That and to provide a little care to stuff that grows here on its own.

Things that just grow here include raspberries, blackberries, wild grapes, wild cherries, walnuts, hickory nuts, wild asparagus, persimmons, papaws and mulberries. I tend but not diligently so, to some of those that were here when I arrived 25 years ago and have expanded them plus planted commercial varieties of some of the same. I've added apples, pears, peaches, goji berries, pecans, sweet cherries and more. Then there are other plants like rhubarb and horseradish. I might mow or mulch around things, or trim sometimes but I really don't do much as far as routine maintenance, I don't water anything except the vegetable garden.

I have 100% crop failure in 50% or more of my things every year, but almost always different things. I also, about always have a bumper crop of some things. This year I had to knock buckets of little pears and peaches off the trees to keep the branches from breaking. Just in time on the peaches cause the last good crop of them was about 4 years ago and I was getting low on my favorite jam. I've never had more than a few apples other than little ones from a couple seed grown trees. I'm using some of the bigger commercial apple trees for grape vine trellis cause I never got any apples anyway, I don't care if the vines smother those trees. More often than not anymore hot dry weather hits just as blackberries are trying to ripen but it rained just right this year, so we got lots. More walnuts and pecans than I know what do with this year, so I dump buckets of them along the nearby backroads for the squirrels to plant. Our hickory trees rarely produce much at all anymore, I don't know why. Strawberries in the tended bed, under bird netting and watered as needed about always do fine, attempts to add them to the wilder areas have failed completely, the plants grow but we get no harvest. Even the completely wild paw paws are real hit and miss, usually few to none, but sometimes lots.

I start trees from seed, and I generally plant the seed in the spot I want the tree to grow. I just put in a bunch of seeds in a spot and then thin down to the best one. Things like black or raspberries are easy to just start from rooted sections of vine.  Grapes are easy to start from seed or cuttings.

I do sometimes plant things that don't really belong here like honeyberries. I learned about them and goji berries from a forum, goji took off like weeds and volunteer all around, but the honeyberries didn't like me, so they croaked. I guess I could have researched what they like and built them some kind of artificial microclimate, maybe watered them or something but I'm too lazy and cheap for that.

I suspect those old "food forests" in Vietnam and places are just what people did back then. It might have been common, a long time ago to just plant and care for things that did well in a specific environment and that one is just a remnant of that. The rest having been slashed, burned and plowed under for monoculture or paved for a shopping mall.







 
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Jay Angler wrote:My friends complain that my strawberries and raspberries are "so small" compared to "what the grocery store has". Then they taste them and it's like, "hmmm... yours taste better"



The strawberries and raspberries in the store have been treated with a plant hormone called Gibberellin (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/gibberellin), used on grapes and cherries as well, which has the effect of making the fruit much bigger as well as toughening the skins so it ships better. A commercial grower's dream! You can tell your friends that, next time they're running down your fruit! Maybe they won't be quite so keen on the bought stuff afterwards. It does nothing for the flavour and gives the fruit a rubbery texture.

No food forest experience here (yet) but one thing I can share is my success with apples. Here, on our patch of Vancouver Island, the thin, poor forest topsoil, overlaying glacial till, is wet and acid and not really suited to commercial rootstocks. However, the wild crabapples seed prolifically everywhere and if I see one in a good spot, I just graft edible apples scions onto it. I've heard there are only a few apple varieties (don't know which) that can't be directly grafted onto wild crab and those can be double grafted. If I see an apple tree with good fruit, I take or beg a few scions in autumn, stick them in the ground in a bunch until early spring, when the sap is just starting to flow and then graft them on to a suitable crab sapling. I cut back one more mature crab tree and grafted everything onto it that I managed to scrounge. It now has five varieties on it, mostly unknown but one, my favourite, I think is Northern Spy. A good, tasty apple which keeps a long time in good condition in a big old fridge that's set to be not too cold. Domesticated apple trees here are prone to canker and those grafted onto wild crab seem less so.

Talking about apple trees, the best thing for them is wood ash, so if you have a wood stove, keep the ash and scatter it under your trees as far out as the drip line. Same goes for any stone fruit. Our soil is always deficient in potash, due to the high rainfall. Also magnesium, so a few handfuls of Epsom Salts can work wonders too. Many folks say it helps the flavour of the fruit. These two treatments are especially important if you are trying to renew older, neglected trees.

About comfrey: back in England, I planted about two dozen old varieties of apple in an old lawn gone wild. One had a patch of stinging nettles and Russian comfrey growing round it and it always did really well, even in a dry year. The soil was always damp underneath it and I reckon the stingers and the comfrey were bringing nutrients in and water from deep down. A good system, apart from retrieving the fallers which necessitated a long pair of gloves!
 
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The wildlife food plot crowd has successfully grown chestnut trees for many years. My brother planted 250 chestnuts in 1995ish with a very good survival rate. Today those trees are 35 feet tall and produce bumper crops. There are several varieties that are 90% plus American Chestnut. Look for nurseries that specialize in plantings for deer, turkey, etc. in your area. Some states have spring sales run by the game and fish departments selling seedlings of beneficial trees and shrubs. Mossy oak , the hunting company, has a nursery with many such plants and trees but local venders will be better for your specific area. Check out hunting forums for information locally. These nurseries also have persimmon, Apple, pear, oak,  that are adapted to harsh climates.
 
Scott Lehman
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Also,

Seattle Food Forest people, what's the lateset update?

Tripple Brook Farm--what's made that last?  are you still using the controversial stuff you advocated a few years ago?

Corsica--really, wtf Corsica, I hate you.  I just. Hate. You.  OK what's your secret

North America--there was a chestnut blight over a hundred years ago, why with the power of the Death Star can we still not have a chestnut tree that is f(&*^-ing productive I do not understand



Check out my post on chestnuts
 
gardener
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There are lots of food forests that are thriving. Not just mine. There are probably 10 thriving food forests in the Portland area alone.  I think that most of these people start with trees that do well in their area, then fill in with guild/complementary plants to diversify the terrain.  I've had one for about 20 years. It is astoundingly productive.  I give away a lot of fruit to the food closet for the poor at church.  I give some to friends. I am also always giving away trees, bushes, and plants.  I don't have any special skills. Anyone could learn this.  I didn't grow up in a gardening family.  The first fruit tree I bought was a cherry tree that I drowned in the clay.  The PNW, where i live, is where most of the cherry trees are grown.  But I learned.  

Over the years, I have added little practices to make the soil and orchard better, like adding wood chips, cultivating mason bees, adding some biodynamic practices, compost tea, biochar, grafting, rotten wood into the tree planting hole, adding local weeds that are edible, moving the plant to an area it likes better, and mixing in natives.  I have no trees that were grown to harvest from seed. Some grew from seed and I grafted onto them.  I hear from a lot of people on other lists that it is easier to grow fruit here in the West. Probably true, but it's easier to grow vegetables in the East of the continent, where you get plenty of summer rain and heat all day and all night.  I would try to focus on fruit trees and berry bushes that do well in the East, which probably aren't stone fruits from what I hear.  I would think that pawpaw, persimmon, beach plum, and mulberries would do quite well.  I would also check with people that were successful in that climate. Ben Falk is a well known permaculturalist in New England, and Peter Bane is a well known permaculturalist in Indiana. Both have written excellent books.

JohN S
PDX OR
 
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In 2017 I was asked to take a virtually bare piece of land and turn it into a community food forest. I quickly decided that for a community food forest to be successful you needed to have apart from food, other reasons for people to visit... ie seating, play areas, sheltered areas for people to picnic and open area for maybe an event or two.
We developed a really good team of trustees, that had knowledge that I didnt have... and we have developed an asset for the community
We started by transplanting 17 fully mature trees...using a huge tree spade...wonderful machine... not one tree was lost..
Since we started we have had over 4000 trees and plants donated, each week we have volunteer time and most importantly we have educational days, on how to grow food sustainably, without pesticides or herbicides, propagation, edible weeds, mushroom growing, grafting, kumara (sweet potatoe) growing, pruning, companion planting - just to name a few.
We have a fruit and vege stand where people can share their surplus...again another reason for people to visit.
Prior to the food forest, it was somwhere that people walked past, unvisited, mowed from time to time by council workers...

Now it is thriving... people come and harvest seasonal fruit, berries, herbs, veges and picnic and play...

"Growing Food - Growing Community - Growing for the Future”

If anyone is keen to visit...please drop us a line...brent@kai.net.nz

Check out our website and Facebook pages...
http://kai.net.nz
https://www.facebook.com/KAIintoKAIAPOI/
https://www.facebook.com/KAIintoKAIAPOI/photos/4031041316959411

 
master pollinator
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I am not far from the Seattle Beacon Food Forest but I haven't ever visited. I am interested to hear someone's observations who has been involved onsite. From all accounts on social media and online reviews, it's going strong and productive...

I think large community food forests are going to need several things to be successful-
*A long-term committed core group of knowledgeable people to make the decisions, not just a for-hire landscaping firm who design a big grand plan and drop it in the laps of hired workers. Food forests are not something you can design in one go and call it good. They are growing evolving works in progress. Even if someone has experience growing a food forest a few miles away, they will have to learn the new site all over again and to really know a site takes years.
*A steady flow of volunteer workers. A large community sized food forests is going to take work for many years while it is young. Replanting, pulling up invasives, pruning, etc.
*A willingness to learn to eat things that aren't in the supermarkets. Trying to grow a food forest that copies what is in most supermarkets is going to fail because what is grown for supermarkets are foods that are industrialized and need tons of babying. The most successful plants in my (tiny and still immature) food forest are things you don't buy at the store- gooseberries, currents, goumi, Autumn Olive, Aronia berries, native berries like salal and Oregon grape, and a few varieties of plum and apple that you will not find in stores.
*Funds for replanting as things inevitably die and replanting new types, not just replanting the same thing that died.

I don't know if the failed food forests described earlier in the thread had these things. My guess would be that they were missing at least in part.
 
John Suavecito
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Depending on where you live, some species from grocery stores could work quite well.  Here in the PNWet, apples, plums, cherries, and pears grow really well.  Oranges and bananas don't. If you're in Phoenix, oranges grow well, but the other stuff will be harder. I imagine that bananas would grow well in Hawaii, but the stuff I grow here wouldn't.   I do agree with Jenny in that the varieties that are chosen for grocery stores are based on shelf life and external appearance, so they could very well not work in your climate.  Heirloom fruit were primarily chosen because they did so well in that particular climate.  I choose many varieties that do well in my climate, but they aren't based on how well they store in air-conditioned industrial storage or external appearance.

I also agree that you can get tremendous abundance, flavor, beauty and nutrition from plants that you never see in a grocery store.  They also biodiversify your food forest and provide other roles like pollinating, fixing nitrogen, and accumulating minerals.

John S
PDX OR
 
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Wanted to mention that crabapples are edible. Sure, they can be a bit sour. I don't mind. I think they're a perfect size for a snack.

Also, if you want to grow from seed, getting the seed from produce at local farmer's markets would make the trees and other plants more likely to do well in your area. I read this in Joseph Lofthouse's book, Landrace Gardening: Food Security through Biodiversity and Promiscuous Pollination. I would think it would apply equally to trees and plants in food forests as to getting seed inputs for creating a landrace.

And honestly, landraces would probably be a good idea for a food forest. If you could start out with landrace seed for a specific plant, some of it would likely do well. Even if you just planted a grex (multiple varieties of the same species), you could see what happens. Nature will sort out what will do well and what won't, with the inputs you have available to give (ex: watering, compost, weeding). Plus, if it is a species that can cross, you will have hybrid vigor in the mix from the 2nd generation on.

I think a 'landrace lens,' if you will, would be a healthy way to look at food forests. Some trees and plants are not going to do well. We are attempting to garden like nature, with forests, which is not an easy task! Looking at it as an experiment and employing survival of the fittest seems like a good way to go.

I think any practices that would increase beneficial soil microbes would be worthwhile, and help the health of the trees.

Also hugelkulture is amazing, and a great way to build up soil networks, let alone have to water less.

I think grafting, like others have mentioned, is a really smart idea. Especially if a food forest isn't spacious enough to seed for trees and hope for the best. Then you can use rootstock that are well-adapted to the area, and graft on varieties you would like to have but that wouldn't grow well from seed.

I read a lot. Hope some of my rambling is helpful. :) Will be moving to North Carolina in a few months.
 
Shannon Kim
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elle sagenev wrote:My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P



Have you tried growing Serviceberry? How about Strawberry Spinach, Yuccas, sunflowers?
Nanking Cherry can be grown into a tree.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/nanking-cherry/
How about elderberry?
Crandall's clove currant is a shrub that should do well there.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/crandall-clove-currant/
Jerusalem artichokes do well in Montana, according to an article by Paul Wheaton. That would be a good emergency food crop, if you haven't tried it already.
Hope this helps!
 
William Bronson
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So many great things shared here, one question comes to mind.
What should a food forest do?
My own land is dedicated to making a living in a way that is sustainable.
That doesn't necessarily mean growing all of my own food.
Selling firewood could be a sustainable way of living off your own land.
So is selling sweet corn and watermelon.
Is there a similar way to look at food forests, but with a communal twist?

My sister is a chef that works teaching people to cook from scratch, so they can eat better for less.
One of the ministers she knows has been asked to take over some land and make it work feeding  the community.
Annual gardens could help, but who will tend them?
Fruit trees could work, but kids in this community throw out apples rather than eat them.
Many of these families that don't know how to take a bag of potatoes and turn it into somethings their kids want to eat.
Because of these facts growing food for direct consumption seems likely to fail.

My suggestion was raspberry bushes, hazel nut bushes and Chestnut trees.
Raspberries can be eaten out of hand, and kids actually like them.
The raspberries and the nuts both can be turned in to value added products.
That's the key to me.
If the church can offer a  place to sell the nuts and berries, the community might have reason to participate.
No long term commitments, just a safe way to make some money.
Turning the raspberries into pies, juices, preserves, and teas can be a job and could  turn into a business.
Roasting nuts can be a job that could become a business.
The target market is well to do people that value fresh, local, artisanal food and social welfare.
Nutella from local bushes ,locally grown roasted chestnuts at served at hipster bars, selling these staples as luxuries might feed the community and promote the food itself.
The church would offer all the means of production, including knowledge , kitchen space and marketing.
Getting people outside and directly involved with plants as a source of money will lead to opportunities to educate.
Some people will want to grow annuals or other plants that can create income, and that can be accommodated, but the base will be perennial foods that require minimal annual investment.
If no one is interested, the wildlife will benefit, with little in the way of waste.
A bumper crop of nuts or berries don't seem leave the waste that a similar crop of fruit does.

What are ways you can think of that would make a food forest an asset to the community as it exists. vs. the community we desire?

 
pollinator
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Abe Coley wrote:Rather than buying plants, learning how to propagate plants has been the way to go. Depending on the species, it is at least 100x to 1000x cheaper on a per plant basis. When I got good at propagation it enabled me to have a near endless supply of plants, which changed my perspective on both the individual plants and the mass plantings within the food forest. Previously, when a tree died I experienced grief and loss, but now it's like no big deal and I just replant something different that might be able to better handle whatever killed the previous plant. Doing mass plantings of 100 or 1000 of a batch of seedlings is akin to sample size in a study, and the successes and failures gives me greater insight about the individual plants, the species as a whole, the site, my methods, etc.

As far as propagation goes, it seems like air pruner beds are better than in-ground beds, and both are better than pots. And fall plantings survive better than spring plantings.

To not get discouraged when I kill baby trees, I think about something I recall hearing Akiva Silver say, something like "Baby trees are super pathetic weaklings and they need a lot of help to survive in the early years. Some trees make millions of seeds per year and they live for hundreds of years, and only 1 or 2 of those seeds need to survive over the lifetime of the parent tree for the population to maintain replacement rate. If that's the measure of success, then it really gives you perspective on how much trees pretty much suck at life."




I so agree with propogating instead of buying plants. I scrounge starts/unwanted seedlings/seeds off everyone who has anything I want, even if I already have some. They  may die. I like genetic diversity. I have dozens of plants and hundreds of seeds that were free, very few that I had to buy. There's a whole hedge, in fact, that I didn't buy. True, it's young and small but it's there and growing. Also check to see if your county has a conservation district. Mine has an annual plant sale of bare root native plants dirt (no pun intended) cheap. Like a dollar or two each. That accounts for 95% of what I actually spent money on.
 
elle sagenev
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

The climate change piece is big.  Starting a food forest in wind is hard, establishing windbreaks can be costly but I guess if i know it's the price of entry then i can more peacefully accept it and just do it.



We do have a wind break. To be successful we'd have to have many many wind breaks very close together. Water is then the issue. We have a residential well. Water rights are massive in Wyoming. We have the right to water no more than 2 acres. We have 40. Even then the winter is massively dry here but it's also very cold. So they need watered but I can't water them because the lines will freeze. I do try planting. I've planted hundreds of trees. I just can't keep any of them alive.
 
elle sagenev
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Shannon Kim wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:My experience is that there is no real point planting a food forest in WY. I've planted pretty much everything. Some of it has lived now that I've transplanted everything into a heavily protected and watered area. We have 2 plum trees that have survived the wilds for 5 years but they've never had a single plum on them. Ground animals absolutely adore anything you do earth works wise. They're favorite! Having plants under the trees just increases coverage for nibblers from predators. If we had a million cats and watered daily and yeah, probably had less wind, things would grow. It's not meant for our climate.



P.S. The state capitol has some chinese chestnut trees brought from China ages ago growing and producing yearly. They look magnificent. Perhaps blight is only an issue when you have other trees spreading it about. :P



Have you tried growing Serviceberry? How about Strawberry Spinach, Yuccas, sunflowers?
Nanking Cherry can be grown into a tree.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/nanking-cherry/
How about elderberry?
Crandall's clove currant is a shrub that should do well there.
https://wyomingplantcompany.com/product/crandall-clove-currant/
Jerusalem artichokes do well in Montana, according to an article by Paul Wheaton. That would be a good emergency food crop, if you haven't tried it already.
Hope this helps!



I know your heart is in the right place with these recommendations but allow me to assure you there is nothing I haven't done.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Conversation with Buzz from Perfect Circle Farm in Vermont, tree nursery, 1/6/2022. (I sent it to Buzz afterward and he made some corrections, in all caps below:  

Takeaways:

—the main factor for longevity of a food forest/tree is legal/social: a conservation trust setup or ownership by State forest; luck can also can help (it was in the developer’s best interest to concentrate the housing stock in one area of the nursery and leave much of the tree stock standing) [note—compare Serenbe, where a permaculturist/farmer deliberately took this approach to divert market forces toward preserving farmland: high-density layout of the residential buildings, making the farmland into a value-add, instead of having a golf course get put in that wouldn’t have actually been desired by the market over green space/farmland anyway.  Market research showed the farmland was viable economically as well as ethically.]

—once a tree is established, it takes care of itself, and makes its own soil environment.  (Leaf litter and root die-off in winter: all the root hairs).  You just have to get it through its first several years [you build the soil for it, use animal fecesCOMPOST, clear grass or weeds, irrigate, etc.]. The tree will make the soil fungal-dominated OVER TIME, for example, or whatever other conditions it needs for itself, PROVIDED SOIL WATER ETC ARE CONDUCIVE FOR THE TREES GROWTH.

—grafting is the main tool of raising superior cultivars; but rootstock that is of good quality is worth it too as a kind of backup. Growing from seed is indicated and preferable, but Hershey did manage to rescue his best plants from the Tennessee Valley and move them/start them again in his Pennsylvania nursery!  Whether this included transplanting is unknown; certainly grafting was a part of it, and he was one of the most skilled grafters in history.

—there are hundred-year-old-plus productive trees in the US: Chinese chestnuts and crosses and other experiments at a research facility in New England (location shouldn’t be put out publicly, I gather), and it’s not very findable on the internet.  Probably for the best, only people who are invested in sustaining and improving tree quality ought to know about it.  But there are examples of long-lived (>50 years) chestnuts producing seed in America. NO NEED TO HIDE THIS PLACE,  https://portal.ct.gov/CAES/ABOUT-CAES/Staff-Biographies/Sandra-L-Anagnostakis

—when there’s a situation of the public wanting to rescue seeds and cuttings from a development area like Hershey’s nursery, it can be a problem as the gatherers may be INCONSIDERATE OF the residents and generate animosity, which then pushes the residents to be more opposed to preservation efforts.  (If you’re coming to gather seed, ASK PERMISSION, KNOCK ON THE DOOR, EXPLAIN YOURSELF please don’t park on someone’s lawn or bring your dog!! It harms the cause as well as annoying the residents of the area.)



Other info:

—John Hershey’s food forest/orchard/nursery was on 72 acres originally a worn-out cornfield.  He first rebuilt soil, grazing animals in PADDOCKS among the trees.  He was influenced by Rodale (founder of the organic agriculture movement) and biodynamics, and credited these with helping him regain his health from stomach cancer.  Prior to that he’d been a conventional agriculturist, using chemical inputs.

—if a mature tree splits, you can save half; but it’s cheaper to chop the whole thing down and chip it and that’s what often happens, and how many invaluable trees are being lost

—all of Hershey’s chestnuts were cut down because it was convenient for the developer TO REMOVE THE FEW WELL SPACED TREES

—the article “America’s Oldest Food Forest” https://www.shelterwoodforestfarm.com/blog/2018/10/17/exploring-americas-oldest-food-forest.  .  has more information on Hershey’s nursery, as well as a link to all of Hershey’s own writings AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE.  He was in charge of the government’s Tennessee Valley nursery project under FEDR; they had contests that brought in the best specimens from farmers throughout the country, and provided many specimens for many farmers.





Thanks so much Buzz Ferver from Perfect Circle Farm  IN VERMONT(perfect circle.farm) for taking the time to answer these questions and shed light on the hundred-year-view of nut and fruit trees.
 
elle sagenev
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Here is a link to the USDA article on the High Plains Research Center in Wyoming that has Chestnut trees of an age that is unknown to me but if they were planted with all the other stuff are probably 50+ might even be 100 years old.
Filename: CHEYENNEHORTICULTURALFIELDSTATION.pdf
File size: 429 Kbytes
 
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Thanks Elle, these are things I hadn't managed to find by web searching alone!

I also think, given what Buzz had to say about getting a tree established and then it cam pretty much handle itself, that Mark Shepard's farm must be an excellent example to learn from. It's no guarantee of the future, but given that he uses the STUN method (sheer total utter neglect) it seems pretty solid that the trees on that farm will be there in 100+ years.  But still the best example is the actual

Buzz also mentioned, or maybe I ran across them elsewhere, that some American chestnuts in isolated places avoided the blight.
 
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elle sagenev wrote:Here is a link to the USDA article on the High Plains Research Center in Wyoming that has Chestnut trees of an age that is unknown to me but if they were planted with all the other stuff are probably 50+ might even be 100 years old.



Thanks again for sharing this information. The article doesn't mention the chestnuts at all--it seems strange that's not the headline! I take if you've gotten to go there in person?
 
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From a thread on oermeis on grafting chestnut to beech:

Bryant RedHawk , gardener staff
Mar 03, 2017 05:47:32
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Blight is soil born not seed born so seed is safe.
There are a few folks that are growing American chestnut in the US for commercial use and the way they are doing it is to plant thousands then thin down over the years.
Those that come down with the blight are destroyed, those that survive are usually resistant.
One other interesting thing about chestnut trees, they are capable of being selected for quantity of nuts produced, many will put out nuts in either the first or second year, and those that fruit earlier will usually produce more over time than those that start putting out nuts later in life.

Redhawk

https://permies.com/t/63333/Grafting-american-chestnut-beech
----
I had thought to ask Redhawk about the soil and biodynamics aspect of this, didnt know he's also really knowledgeable about chestnuts.  Would you be willing to contribute to the thread?  Thanks for this information!
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Here is a link to the USDA article on the High Plains Research Center in Wyoming that has Chestnut trees of an age that is unknown to me but if they were planted with all the other stuff are probably 50+ might even be 100 years old.



Thanks again for sharing this information. The article doesn't mention the chestnuts at all--it seems strange that's not the headline! I take if you've gotten to go there in person?



Of course! We picnic there. They have a variety of plants they gathered from all over the world to see if they could survive here. Most are crab apples. There are landscaping trees and shrubs as well.
 
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William Bronson wrote:So many great things shared here, one question comes to mind.
What should a food forest do?
My own land is dedicated to making a living in a way that is sustainable.
That doesn't necessarily mean growing all of my own food.
Selling firewood could be a sustainable way of living off your own land.
So is selling sweet corn and watermelon.
Is there a similar way to look at food forests, but with a communal twist?

My sister is a chef that works teaching people to cook from scratch, so they can eat better for less.
One of the ministers she knows has been asked to take over some land and make it work feeding  the community.
Annual gardens could help, but who will tend them?
Fruit trees could work, but kids in this community throw out apples rather than eat them.
Many of these families that don't know how to take a bag of potatoes and turn it into somethings their kids want to eat.
Because of these facts growing food for direct consumption seems likely to fail.

My suggestion was raspberry bushes, hazel nut bushes and Chestnut trees.
Raspberries can be eaten out of hand, and kids actually like them.
The raspberries and the nuts both can be turned in to value added products.
That's the key to me.
If the church can offer a  place to sell the nuts and berries, the community might have reason to participate.
No long term commitments, just a safe way to make some money.
Turning the raspberries into pies, juices, preserves, and teas can be a job and could  turn into a business.
Roasting nuts can be a job that could become a business.
The target market is well to do people that value fresh, local, artisanal food and social welfare.
Nutella from local bushes ,locally grown roasted chestnuts at served at hipster bars, selling these staples as luxuries might feed the community and promote the food itself.
The church would offer all the means of production, including knowledge , kitchen space and marketing.
Getting people outside and directly involved with plants as a source of money will lead to opportunities to educate.
Some people will want to grow annuals or other plants that can create income, and that can be accommodated, but the base will be perennial foods that require minimal annual investment.
If no one is interested, the wildlife will benefit, with little in the way of waste.
A bumper crop of nuts or berries don't seem leave the waste that a similar crop of fruit does.

What are ways you can think of that would make a food forest an asset to the community as it exists. vs. the community we desire?



Wanted to mention that if a child plants and grows something themselves, they will be much more likely to eat it and enjoy it. If you started a program for kids - a quick, simple, inexpensive way to get them excited about planting and growing is to plant popcorn seeds for microgreens. Only takes 2 weeks and it's done! Then you could work up from there. But I think the quick turnaround in the beginning helps get them hooked. :D

I remember watching a video where they taught preschoolers or kindergarteners about how important it was to get more fruits and veggies, and this program led to the kids making healthier recommendations to their parents while shopping! I thought that was pretty amazing.

I like how you're proposing to work with what is, not what we want it to be. I think sugar consumption is one of the big problems - varieties with a higher natural sugar content might help convert more people to seeing fruits and veggies as good options.
 
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