The Food Forests are part of the more sustainable Permaculture designed systems and are highly productive, complete ecosystems that provide produce and goods virtually every day of every yeari. They are based on local growth, plant and animal life and are wholly indigenous and natural environments, albeit man-made.
If there is any real controversy, the controversy does not surround the design and planning of the Food Forests themselves, but rather the proposed plan that is set forth herein. The normal establishment of the food forests requires clearing out as little as possible of the local ecosystems and building primarily across plains and other open areasii. The proposed food forests for the community developments, recommend entirely replacing complete, existing ecosystems with the food forests for the purposes of the large-scale, sustainable production of a wide selection of local produce for the local people at no cost and with a minimal investment of labor after such a time as the food forests have reached a certain level of maturity and productioniii.
Sections of the Food Forest(s) will be set aside for housing and select families will live in these homes, their task to be that of gatherersiv. These families will be responsible for gathering the ripe fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and other growth that occurs naturally in the fully developed and mature food forests. They will be further tasked with the responsibility of washing what needs to be washed, pre-packaging the goods for transport and transporting them to a pre-arranged location whereby they can be picked up and delivered to their final destinations for distribution and/or sale.
The first (and primary) location should be a centralized warehouse and market. Here, the produce will be separated in-kind and put on display at the local marketv. Since the local market may be a distant and difficult proposition for some, most notably the elderly and/or infirm, it may be necessary to deliver goods to a marginal segment of the population. From the warehouse location, further produce should be separated for distribution to the Community Restaurants, office kitchens, feeding centers and other locations that will be preparing the goods for immediate consumption. Some produce may be set aside for domestic sales though the actual amount will be dependent on the level of maturity and the production of the food forests. Those goods that will be made available for commercial sales should be prepared and packaged in the same facility in order to prevent any delay in reaching their final markets.
Current estimates put the timeline at six to fifteen years before the Food Forests will begin to attain levels of local sustainability and/or full maturity. These numbers also depend on the size and growth of the local population and the introduction of new people as the commercial ventures and university system are more fully established and operating at capacity as well. Additional factors include the local environmental conditions and what types of crops can be included within the wholly natural food forest ecological systems.
Food Forests should also be planned and implemented with the projected growth of the local population in mind, including a potentially transient population in students, observers and even tourists. While such a proposal may go against some of the more traditional thinking in regards to these food forests, it remains a substantially more productive, beneficial and sustainable method of feeding the local population than more traditional farming methods.
The large-scale food forests will also greatly assist in the ability to offset the “carbon footprint” of the overall community presence. While this should not be viewed in any way to be a viable, final solution towards the pollution often left behind by “civilized society”, when combined with the many other environmentally sound and sustainable projects at the site, the lasting carbon footprint should be minimal at best, and certainly much less so than a comparable modern city would be, given the same levels of population and industry.
The more of the community development that is built underground, the more room there will be for the food forests. This is ground that will now provide necessary habitat for the local wildlife, in addition to feeding both the wildlife and the people very well, at levels much greater than that of “normal” monocrop farming methods. Human nature however, being what it is, these food forests may also require human patrols so as to ensure that people are not coming along and filling their baskets at will. While such an ability is possible one day, it may very well be necessary to regulate some behavior and to limit or restrict access, especially in the early days of growth.
Future conservation efforts should focus on the large scale introduction of food forests in city parks and other public areas locally. These will be staffed with local experts who have been fully trained in the processes involved with the natural production of goods, and who are in a position to limit what is taken from the property. Beyond that, the introduction of the food forests into more urban settings could very well help to end hunger far quicker than any of the current governmental programs of social assistance. The added environmental benefits would merely be something of a bonus for humanity and the planet collectively.
i Food Forest: an ecosystem of humans, plants, animals, soils, and water, with trees playing key ecological roles. It usually occupies a well-defined area, between 0.5 and 2.0 hectares in size, in close proximity to a dwelling. Rich in plant species, [forest] gardens are usually dominated by woody perennials; a mixture of annuals and perennials of different heights forms layers of vegetation resembling a natural forest structure. The high diversity of species permits year-round harvesting of food products and a wide range of other useful products, such as firewood, medicinal plants, spices, and ornamentals. (As defined by Stephen Gleissman)
ii In converting a farm, ranch or home to a sustainable system, an important permaculture strategy is to make the least change possible to yield the greatest effect. With clear vision, careful observation, thorough analysis and some ingenuity, we can design an integrated plan to be implemented in stages over the course of several years. The average food forest will take between eight and fifteen years to reach full maturity.
iii The food forests per the current plan for both Ambil and Verde Islands would see the creation of complete ecological systems consisting of nothing more than food forests, covering not less than one thousand hectares on each island. Some proponents feel that this is antithetical to the basic principles, though the view is towards ending hunger and poverty so such drastic measures remain fully-justifiable given the necessity to feed the global population, even as it increases and “traditional” (current) farming methods (which in some cases are hundreds and even thousands of years old) prove themselves time and again to be incapable of providing at sufficient levels even for the successful feeding of the current population.
iv The role of “Gatherer” is used here given the fact that the food forests, mimicking natural environments … as they are nothing more than man-made natural environments, tend to produce better with less human interference once they have been established. Rather than actively farming, gardening or reserving time for harvesting, these people will be tasked with gathering the natural production of the food forests and providing for its transportation to the desired destination for the produce.
v This is only one proposal for the equitable distribution of produce grown within the Community Development for its residents, though additional concepts and visions should be explained and put forth for discussion and debate before any final decision is made.