Monday, August 13, 2012

Edible Forest Gardening Workshop and some Food Forest Daydreams

My good friend Kari Ann let me know about an Edible Agroforestry class with Dave Jacke that is being held in SE Portland mid-next month.  I'm quite excited and am not only going to attend myself, but I've talked Kelsey into attending with me.  He not only will be talking about Edible Agroforestry, but Coppice Agroforestry as well, which is the subject of a new set of books he's writing with Mark Krawczyk.  I'm excited to learn from one of the great minds in the field.  If you or anyone you know is in Portland, you should attend!  I'd love to meet some local folks who have similar interests and are possibly readers of my blog.

So, anyone who has read my blog in the past knows that I think a Forest Garden is going to be a really important part of my homestead.  Last April Kelsey got me the two-volume Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier.  I've slowly but surely been reading up on it via these books and synthesizing the information into the greater picture I have for a homestead.  I recently watched Establishing a Food Forest- the Permaculture Way Series, with Geoff Lawton, and found that it brought my excitement for the topic even higher.  Even my Friday Feature posts (which I admit have had a flat start so far) are mostly centered around plants I could include in a food forest.

Ultimately, I believe that with a low to middling amount of management and work for the first 7-12 years of my homestead, I can bring an area of 2-3 acres into high food forest production.  I would define "high food forest production" as something that can provide a majority of the food needed for me, my family, and my animals (animals of course being included in the food needed for me and my family) in any given year.  During those first 7-12 years, if I simultaneously start one or two little "islands" of food forests per year around the edge of the main forest, then eventually they'll all link up with each other into a much larger area.  Once the main area needs less intense management, I can shift my management intensity towards the islands and ramp up their production, all while starting more islands around the outside of the initial maturing islands.  Conceptually, I could continue to expand my food forest to the point where the minimal effort needed to maintain the very large food forest is equal in time and energy needs (human and animal) to the intense effort needed to start the initial food forest plus the first few islands.  Ideally however, I'd stop a little short of that so that as I get older, I can work a little less.  Either way, I imagine that over the course of a few decades I can very easily bring somewhere between 6-10 acres of land into highly productive agroforestry depending on my goals and how much land I have to work with.  I don't really know if that's the magic number as far as effort goes, but I'm going to run with it.  Really, I'm just excited to get started in the first place, and I think the talk I'm attending will make me that much more excited.

This leads me to a point where I want to crunch some numbers and talk about what a food forest can actually produce on that much land.  I've already started doing so, and realized that it would make today's post too long for me to want to write right now, because as I'm writing this it's getting later in the evening.  So, I'm going to pick this topic back up either this Thursday or next as that's the day a number-crunching post fits into my new posting regime.  Until next time, thanks for reading!


  1. Hey. Just came across your blog. I recently heard that the course you are talking about is full. You'll definitely want to double check that, but if it is, we are hosting david jacke on our farm for a edible ecosystems emerging forest gardening class as well. This will be the second year having the course at our place. Dave is an amazing teacher and inspiration. Good luck with your homestead. we are doing something very similar here on Spiral Ridge. Love to read about the adventures of other permie homesteaders.

  2. Thanks for the info! It didn't look full, but I guess I'll find out when I try to register on Friday. Do you have the info on your course? I'm more than happy with you posting things like that in the comments section here. Spread the good word!