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Agri & Gardening food forest  growing food and creating biodiversity | Upload General

Food Forest: Growing Food And Creating Biodiversity

by: Tjitske Ypma
food forest  growing food and creating biodiversity | Upload

The exploitation of a food forest can yield more than an ordinary cornfield. Pioneers in The Netherlands say that. They define a food forest as a place where at least four layers grow above each other and where practically no processing takes place. There are now around 100 in the Netherlands, most of them very small, for example, half a hectare.

Growing Food And Creating Biodiversity

They are from pioneers or hobbyists. But there is increasing interest in this form of agriculture, mainly because it increases biodiversity and decreases climate change. In that view, a project has started who measures biodiversity, harvest, CO2-fixation, and soil restoration.

What is biodiversity and why it is important?
Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms

The food forest is in Europe not very known, experienced Marieke Karssen from The Plant during a lecture she gave about the subject on a Forestry conference in Florence in February 2020. There the phenomenon of food forestry was still mostly unknown. In June, she goes to Dartington in Devon (UK) to speak about the subject on the International Food Forest symposium.

Food forest plats, path
A small scale food forest

What exactly is a food forest? To give an image: in a food forest, roots grow underground, ground cover plants, herbs, shrubs, climbing plants, and low and high trees. They would reinforce each other in such a way that no manure or agent is needed. A food forest offers people nuts, fruits, berries, mushrooms, herbs, and roots.

The cultivation in the first Dutch food forests is labor-intensive, there is no manure or crop protection agent involved, and plowing or digging is not done. Some food foresters prune some; others don't. However, the construction is capital and labor-intensive, and the harvest is also labor-intensive: everything must be picked by hand. The first real returns are only available after a few years.

Recommended: Regenerative Agriculture: Basics For Safe Food (Part 1 of 3)

Food Forrest: Mankind And His Ecology

The design and construction of a food forest have so far focused on strengthening an ecosystem from which not only people benefit (food). It is also there for the animals, the soil, CO2 capture, and water storage. Because relatively little organic material is harvested and trees do capture CO2, the organic matter content in the ground grows. The pioneers strive to make the soil rich in soil animals and fungi. Insects, butterflies, birds, and small mammals also feed on the harvest. A balance in species prevents pests, says pioneer Wouter van Eck.

What is the simple definition of ecology?
Ecology is the science that studies the biota (living things), the environment, and their interactions. It comes from the Greek oikos = house; logos = study. Ecology is the study of ecosystems. Ecosystems describe the web or network of relations among organisms at different scales of organization.

The Ketelbroek food forest in Horst by Wouter van Eck under Nijmegen is one of the best known in the Netherlands. National media paid a lot of attention to this phenomenon. The nine-year-old forest is the most advanced food forest in the Netherlands, but with 2.5 hectares, it is still an experiment. At the time, the largest food forest in Europe is built in Schijndel in Brabant: the Green Development Fund Brabant makes 20 hectares available.

The Ketelbroek food forest in Horst, Trees, plants
The Ketelbroek food forest in Horst the Netherlands

Mary Fiers, director of Green Development Fund Brabant, is convinced of the added value of a large-scale agricultural food forest. She says on the website of Stichting Voedselbosbouw Nederland: “The food forests are over the hobby. A food forest of the size realized in Schijndel must become profitable in the long term. In our opinion, this initiative is a good example of entrepreneurship with nature. With a profit for the biodiversity of the area and ultimately also a profit for the farmer who will be exploiting it.”


                                                           Biodiversity, Wageningen University Research

Creating Biodiversity: Do Not Separate Nature And Agriculture

The removal of the separation between agriculture and nature is a theme that occupies policymakers and researchers. Nature inclusive agriculture is the magic word in The Netherlands these days. A food forest is a form of that. A lighter style of nature-inclusive agriculture is agroforestry, where fruit or nut trees are combined with annual cultivation or livestock farming. Indeed, the variety of species in a food forest appears large. Even more significant in Ketelbroek than in the neighboring Natura 2000 area, discovered student researchers from Van Hall Larenstein.

Recommended: Regenerative Farming: Agro-Ecology In Practice (Part 2 of 3)

Shrubs, trees
Photo by: Morley Read. Coffee bushes in a shade-grown plantation in the Andes, Ecuador 

Food Forest Development: Regional Governments Give Space To It

Proponents want the funds for nature development also to benefit this form of agriculture. The provinces are responsible for nature development and management. What do they think of it? The regions of Limburg and Zeeland signed the Food Forest Forests Green Deal and state that they will also be filling in their provincial nature network with the construction of food forests. They also agreed in the Green Deal to make provincial subsidies for innovation, rural development, and sustainability available for the construction, marketing, and knowledge development of food forests, as well as for rewards for ecosystem services and monitoring. This, therefore, seems promising.

Food forest 7 layers graph

What is a Food Forest?
A food forest, also called a forest garden, is a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. Food forests are three dimensional designs, with life extending in all directions; up, down, and out. Generally, we recognize seven layers of a forest garden – the overstory, the understory, the shrub layer, the herbaceous layer, the root layer, the ground cover layer, and the vine layer.                                        

Food forest, plants, trees
The birth of a backyard food forest 

At the same time, steps have been taken by the central government towards more food forests. In 2019 a crop code was included for it in the agricultural administration, which takes care of EU-grants. But beware: at a local level, a farming destination does not always allow trees to be planted, for example, because of a desired open landscape. The entrepreneur in question must also apply to the province for exemption from the obligation to replant when there is a wish to stop the food forest over time probably.

Whether the existing nature area will also be transformed into a food forest is still a question. According to Karssen, that is not yet a theme for most governments.

Recommended: Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3)

Food Forest: Revenues Calculated

Governments, therefore, offer space for food forests and idealists to step into this pioneering role. But what does it deliver? This will be measured in the project Food forestry, harvest counted. It started in November 2019 and measures biodiversity, yield, CO2-fixation, and soil restoration. Not scientifically but by citizen science. Pioneers themselves measure according to agreed methods, controlled by students, and the growing quantity of them ensures the reliability of the numbers counted.

In the past, Rich Forests, part of both environmental and human rights organization Both ENDS and Stichting Voedbosbouw Nederland, already tried to quantity the harvests of food forests.

Rich Forests is the most cautious in its calculations for Dutch soil: a conservative estimate of the products at world market prices has been used. In 25 years, the net profit (after deduction of all costs including financing costs and labor costs) amounts to € 300 per hectare per year. The profit comes from walnuts, hazelnuts, pea bush (leguminous crop), chestnuts, almonds, apples, and jostaberry. The costs are for the benefits: after nine years, the forest starts to become profitable, based on only fruit yield.

hands, vanilla, leaves
Vanilla, Shri Lanka

In other countries, such as Sri Lanka, it can be much more lucrative due to the different climate and exclusive niche products such as vanilla, cardamom, ginger, tea, and cinnamon. Rich Forests comes to € 20,000 profit per hectare per year. Landscape services are not yet neglected in this, as is CO2 capture.

Food Forestry Netherlands Foundation developed four models for the Welna estate: a biodiversity model, an experience/leisure model, a gastronomy model, and a production model. The models are made for forestry land on the Welna estate in Epe. The last two yield the most in an economic sense. The first two are cost-effective because they exceed the net profit of 300 euros per hectare.

The Plant subsequently converted the four completed models into an online tool that everyone can use for their field. The prognosis is that the net returns after a substantial investment in the initial phase will be very high and around € 20,000 per hectare. Most of it comes from selling products.

Frank Gorter from Welna estate expressed the substantiation for these numbers during the final presentation of this project as follows: “The yield of a Scots pine is on average 50 to 60 euros per tree after 50 years. The yield of a walnut starts after nine years. A few tens in the beginning, but after 20 years, one tree easily generates 150 euros a year. If you then cut it down after 50 years, you also have walnut on top of this profit. That is worth more than pine. The revenues seem unbelievably large, but wholesale prices have been assumed. Also, a lot of time has been budgeted for harvesting on the cost side, leasing costs are also included in the models, and everyone can download the models themselves and adjust them to his or her situation. ”

Wageningen University Research (WUR): Higher Yields With Mixed Crops

The WUR has not yet researched food forests. However, the aforementioned mixed crops in agroforestry systems, a form that is much closer to current agriculture. Wijnand Sukkel, a researcher at the university, confirms that mixed vegetables, on average, yield more hectares than monocultures. "You need a quarter less space for two crops mixed than two separate crops."

Mixed crops
Mixed crops on average yield more hectares than monocultures 

At the same time, according to him, the edible dry matter yield of one hectare of food forest never equals the edible dry matter yield of one hectare of annual crops. “If only because apples contain much less dry matter than wheat, for example.” According to him, you can get a good dry matter yield by combining wheat or other grains with trees (agroforestry). "Then there must be 20 meters between the rows of trees."

Food Forest: Start Yourself?

Take a look at:

  • Voedsel uit het bos There you can download the models of The Plant after registration and get started with your field. You will also find interesting information about regulations here, and you can participate in the modular food forestry course package.

The Food Forestry Netherlands Foundation is also happy to help agricultural entrepreneurs and others to set up a food forest. For example, by offering basic courses and in the field of regulations.

Before you go!

Recommended: Fog Catchers: Making Water Out Of Air In Africa, Peru, Chile

Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below.
We try to respond the same day.

Like to write your article about food forests?
Click on 'Register' or push the button 'Write An Article' on the 'HomePage.'

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Food Forest: Growing Food And Creating Biodiversity

The exploitation of a food forest can yield more than an ordinary cornfield. Pioneers in The Netherlands say that. They define a food forest as a place where at least four layers grow above each other and where practically no processing takes place. There are now around 100 in the Netherlands, most of them very small, for example, half a hectare. Growing Food And Creating Biodiversity They are from pioneers or hobbyists. But there is increasing interest in this form of agriculture, mainly because it increases biodiversity and decreases climate change. In that view, a project has started who measures biodiversity, harvest, CO2-fixation, and soil restoration. What is biodiversity and why it is important? Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms The food forest is in Europe not very known, experienced Marieke Karssen from The Plant during a lecture she gave about the subject on a Forestry conference in Florence in February 2020. There the phenomenon of food forestry was still mostly unknown. In June, she goes to Dartington in Devon (UK) to speak about the subject on the International Food Forest symposium. A small scale food forest What exactly is a food forest? To give an image: in a food forest, roots grow underground, ground cover plants, herbs, shrubs, climbing plants, and low and high trees. They would reinforce each other in such a way that no manure or agent is needed. A food forest offers people nuts, fruits, berries, mushrooms, herbs, and roots. The cultivation in the first Dutch food forests is labor-intensive, there is no manure or crop protection agent involved, and plowing or digging is not done. Some food foresters prune some; others don't. However, the construction is capital and labor-intensive, and the harvest is also labor-intensive: everything must be picked by hand. The first real returns are only available after a few years. Recommended:  Regenerative Agriculture: Basics For Safe Food (Part 1 of 3) Food Forrest: Mankind And His Ecology The design and construction of a food forest have so far focused on strengthening an ecosystem from which not only people benefit (food). It is also there for the animals, the soil, CO2 capture, and water storage. Because relatively little organic material is harvested and trees do capture CO2, the organic matter content in the ground grows. The pioneers strive to make the soil rich in soil animals and fungi. Insects, butterflies, birds, and small mammals also feed on the harvest. A balance in species prevents pests, says pioneer Wouter van Eck. What is the simple definition of ecology? Ecology is the science that studies the biota (living things), the environment, and their interactions. It comes from the Greek oikos = house; logos = study. Ecology is the study of ecosystems. Ecosystems describe the web or network of relations among organisms at different scales of organization. The Ketelbroek food forest in Horst by Wouter van Eck under Nijmegen is one of the best known in the Netherlands. National media paid a lot of attention to this phenomenon. The nine-year-old forest is the most advanced food forest in the Netherlands, but with 2.5 hectares, it is still an experiment. At the time, the largest food forest in Europe is built in Schijndel in Brabant: the Green Development Fund Brabant makes 20 hectares available. The Ketelbroek food forest in Horst the Netherlands Mary Fiers, director of Green Development Fund Brabant, is convinced of the added value of a large-scale agricultural food forest. She says on the website of Stichting Voedselbosbouw Nederland: “The food forests are over the hobby. A food forest of the size realized in Schijndel must become profitable in the long term. In our opinion, this initiative is a good example of entrepreneurship with nature. With a profit for the biodiversity of the area and ultimately also a profit for the farmer who will be exploiting it.” {youtube}                                                            Biodiversity, Wageningen University Research Creating Biodiversity: Do Not Separate Nature And Agriculture The removal of the separation between agriculture and nature is a theme that occupies policymakers and researchers. Nature inclusive agriculture is the magic word in The Netherlands these days. A food forest is a form of that. A lighter style of nature-inclusive agriculture is agroforestry, where fruit or nut trees are combined with annual cultivation or livestock farming. Indeed, the variety of species in a food forest appears large. Even more significant in Ketelbroek than in the neighboring Natura 2000 area, discovered student researchers from Van Hall Larenstein. Recommended:  Regenerative Farming: Agro-Ecology In Practice (Part 2 of 3) Photo by: Morley Read.  Coffee bushes in a shade-grown plantation in the Andes, Ecuador  Food Forest Development: Regional Governments Give Space To It Proponents want the funds for nature development also to benefit this form of agriculture. The provinces are responsible for nature development and management. What do they think of it? The regions of Limburg and Zeeland signed the Food Forest Forests Green Deal and state that they will also be filling in their provincial nature network with the construction of food forests. They also agreed in the Green Deal to make provincial subsidies for innovation, rural development, and sustainability available for the construction, marketing, and knowledge development of food forests, as well as for rewards for ecosystem services and monitoring. This, therefore, seems promising. What is a Food Forest? A food forest, also called a forest garden, is a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. Food forests are three dimensional designs, with life extending in all directions; up, down, and out.  Generally, we recognize seven layers of a forest garden – the overstory, the understory, the shrub layer, the herbaceous layer, the root layer, the ground cover layer, and the vine layer.                                         The birth of a backyard food forest  At the same time, steps have been taken by the central government towards more food forests. In 2019 a crop code was included for it in the agricultural administration, which takes care of EU-grants. But beware: at a local level, a farming destination does not always allow trees to be planted, for example, because of a desired open landscape. The entrepreneur in question must also apply to the province for exemption from the obligation to replant when there is a wish to stop the food forest over time probably. Whether the existing nature area will also be transformed into a food forest is still a question. According to Karssen, that is not yet a theme for most governments. Recommended:  Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3) Food Forest: Revenues Calculated Governments, therefore, offer space for food forests and idealists to step into this pioneering role. But what does it deliver? This will be measured in the project Food forestry, harvest counted. It started in November 2019 and measures biodiversity, yield, CO2-fixation, and soil restoration. Not scientifically but by citizen science. Pioneers themselves measure according to agreed methods, controlled by students, and the growing quantity of them ensures the reliability of the numbers counted. In the past, Rich Forests, part of both environmental and human rights organization Both ENDS and Stichting Voedbosbouw Nederland, already tried to quantity the harvests of food forests. Rich Forests is the most cautious in its calculations for Dutch soil: a conservative estimate of the products at world market prices has been used. In 25 years, the net profit (after deduction of all costs including financing costs and labor costs) amounts to € 300 per hectare per year. The profit comes from walnuts, hazelnuts, pea bush (leguminous crop), chestnuts, almonds, apples, and jostaberry. The costs are for the benefits: after nine years, the forest starts to become profitable, based on only fruit yield. Vanilla, Shri Lanka In other countries, such as Sri Lanka, it can be much more lucrative due to the different climate and exclusive niche products such as vanilla, cardamom, ginger, tea, and cinnamon. Rich Forests comes to € 20,000 profit per hectare per year. Landscape services are not yet neglected in this, as is CO2 capture. Food Forestry Netherlands Foundation developed four models for the Welna estate: a biodiversity model, an experience/leisure model, a gastronomy model, and a production model. The models are made for forestry land on the Welna estate in Epe. The last two yield the most in an economic sense. The first two are cost-effective because they exceed the net profit of 300 euros per hectare. The Plant subsequently converted the four completed models into an online tool that everyone can use for their field. The prognosis is that the net returns after a substantial investment in the initial phase will be very high and around € 20,000 per hectare. Most of it comes from selling products. Frank Gorter from Welna estate expressed the substantiation for these numbers during the final presentation of this project as follows: “The yield of a Scots pine is on average 50 to 60 euros per tree after 50 years. The yield of a walnut starts after nine years. A few tens in the beginning, but after 20 years, one tree easily generates 150 euros a year. If you then cut it down after 50 years, you also have walnut on top of this profit. That is worth more than pine. The revenues seem unbelievably large, but wholesale prices have been assumed. Also, a lot of time has been budgeted for harvesting on the cost side, leasing costs are also included in the models, and everyone can download the models themselves and adjust them to his or her situation. ” Wageningen University Research (WUR): Higher Yields With Mixed Crops The WUR has not yet researched food forests. However, the aforementioned mixed crops in agroforestry systems, a form that is much closer to current agriculture. Wijnand Sukkel, a researcher at the university, confirms that mixed vegetables, on average, yield more hectares than monocultures. "You need a quarter less space for two crops mixed than two separate crops." Mixed crops on average yield more hectares than monocultures  At the same time, according to him, the edible dry matter yield of one hectare of food forest never equals the edible dry matter yield of one hectare of annual crops. “If only because apples contain much less dry matter than wheat, for example.” According to him, you can get a good dry matter yield by combining wheat or other grains with trees (agroforestry). "Then there must be 20 meters between the rows of trees." Food Forest: Start Yourself? Take a look at: Voedsel uit het bos There you can download the models of The Plant after registration and get started with your field. You will also find interesting information about regulations here, and you can participate in the modular food forestry course package. The Food Forestry Netherlands Foundation is also happy to help agricultural entrepreneurs and others to set up a food forest. For example, by offering basic courses and in the field of regulations. Visit voedsel bosbouw  or contact them at: Stichting Voedsel Bosbouw  Before you go! Recommended:  Fog Catchers: Making Water Out Of Air In Africa, Peru, Chile Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about food forests? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'
Stay Updated on Environmental Improvements And Global Innovations