Thanks to generous support from the MASU Green Investment Fund, Horizon Health Network, and EOS Eco-Energy’s Small Change Fund fundraiser from fall 2020, EOS Eco-Energy has planted community food forests at three local schools. The food forests were planted with help from students, volunteers and community members in Sackville, Dorchester, and Port Elgin. The goals of planting a food forest include creating a sustainable, biodiverse, and viable source of food production, improving the environment, encouraging community involvement and environmental education.
- To address issues of food insecurity by utilizing permaculture practices to sustainably produce local foods.
- To create a green space that encourages student and community engagement.
- To educate students and community members about all the benefits of food forest planting, including improving biodiversity, reducing runoff, conserving water, reducing carbon emissions, increasing self-sufficiency, and community resilience in the face of climate change.
What is a food forest?
A food forest is an edible garden plot composed of trees, herbs, vines, and even mushrooms, all working together to create a harmonious ecosystem. Gardeners will love that food forests are planted in such a way as to have as little maintenance as possible, which means minimal weeding! Plants are specifically chosen for their properties, including being great pollinators, such as wild bee balm, or being adept at nirtogen-fixing, such as lupins. Other plants, like day lillies, provide the food forest with a natural mulching effect. The overarching goal is to produce nutritious, healthy food while using permaculture principles to sustain the garden with as little intervention as possible.
Diagram of the seven layers of a food forest:
What are the benefits of food forests?
- Fresh, nutritious, abundant food
- Carbon sequestering
- Reducing rainfall run off and flood risk
- Conserve water (you don’t have to water the forest once it is growing on its own)
- Protect and restore the soil
- Less work and maintenance
- Increase in biodiversity and provide habitat
- Build self-sufficiency and resiliency skills
- Connect students and the community with nature and sustainable food production
How to plant a food forest:
1.Start by reading lots about food forests. You can find more information in the educational resources below. Contact an expert to help you design your food forests. EOS worked with Understory Farm and Design to get advice on the appropriate plants for each site, and on the overall designs. We considered the characteristics of each site, sun, shade, soil types, etc. We included as many native species as we could and included plants for each layer of the forest to help mimic a forest environment. Make sure to properly space plants, such as apple trees, that will require lots of space in the future. A site plan can help.
A site plan for planting at Dorchester Consolidated School
2.Then do you site prep. Spread cardboard to keep grass down and act as a natural mulch. Add soil and compost. Add wood chips for paths through the forest.
Prepping the soil in order to plant a food forests at Tantramar Regional High School
Students helping shovel dirt and woodchips into the food forest ar Port Elgin Regional School
3.Select and order your trees, berries, plants, herbs, ground covers, etc. and get to work planting them. Water everything well as it continues to grow and add mulch to keep the moisture in.
Planting Day at Dorchester Consolidated School
The first day after planting at Port Elgin Regional School. Not pictured: all the mulch!
Virtual Food Forest Tours
Interested in planting your own food forest? Here are some resources to get you started.
Selected trees, shrubs and plants for food forests:
- Pear trees
- Apple trees
- Service berry and bay berry (native species)
- Cherry trees
- Haskap berries
- Blue berries
- Day lillies (mulching effect)
- Lupins (nitrogen fixer)
- Yarrow, Echinacea, Blue Vervain, Milkweed (native species)
- Oregano, sage, chives, thyme, mint, hyssop
- Wild raisin (native species)
- And so many more great plants!!
Local Permaculture and Food Forest Designers:
Understory Farms – Estelle Drisdelle is a food forest and permaculture expert based in Port Elgin, NB
Permaculture Atlantic Network– A network of permaculture experts across the maritimes.
Local Sources for Plants and Trees:
Anderson’s Greenhouse – Fruit trees, perennials, berries and more located in Sackville, NB
Otter Creek Nursery– Daylillies, bee balm, nut trees, grapes and more located in Port Elgin, NB
Corn Hill Nursery– Apple trees, pear trees, service berries, haskap berries, blue berries perennials and more in Corn Hill, NB with delivery services
MacArthur’s Nursery– Perennials, shrubs, trees and more in Moncton, NB
A printable food forest brochure:
Here is a guide to growing your own Mushroom Log:
Food Forest Maintenance and Activity Guide for Schools:
Project Food Forest: https://projectfoodforest.org/what-is-a-food-forest/
The Community Food Forest Handbook: https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/the-community-food-forest-handbook/
Integrated Forest Gardening: https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/integrated-forest-gardening/
Understory Farm and Design Video for Kids on How to Make a Food Forest – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV2KNLWv28s&t=577s
To learn more about our Tantramar region food forests please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Check back soon to find out about upcoming food forest tours, workshops, educational videos and more!
Sackville Rotary Club
NB Environmental Trust Fund