|To read what else the internship program staff and interns have been doing, see Midwest Permaculture’s blog update.
We still have a few seats remaining in our upcoming internship sessions.
Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit over-story will shade that same spot.
Our spring interns, along with the internship staff of Ernest, Hayden, and Megan, have been busy digging into Permaculture ideas — literally. Over the course of three weeks, we have designed, ordered, prepared, and planted a linear food forest, a multi-story edible patch of groundcovers, shrubs, fruit/nut trees, and companion plants placed along a water-catching swale. As the forest grows, these perennials will be a lasting contribution to our yearly local harvest and provide us with tons of extra raw materials such as firewood for rocket stoves or our own living mulch.
But why plant a food forest, when it won’t truly be a forest until 10-15 years from now? Food forests are the ultimate in slow food; in our fast-paced and mobile culture, this design doesn’t appear to work for us as individuals.
In my (humble) opinion, it isn’t working today simply because we haven’t recently been thinking long-term. Imagine if your parents had planted a few trees for you at birth. By age 20, you’d have raw materials at your disposal. Sure, it’s not a new car, but even if you just chop up the trees for firewood, your effort is minimal. Nature did most of the work.
Besides the estimable value of raw materials growing out of thin air, our interns brainstormed other ways in which food forest planting is useful:
- If you are an orchardist whose wish is to maintain a healthy and productive orchard, a food forest design is insurance. Also, with multiple harvest-able products, you aren’t putting “all your eggs in one basket.”
- Learning to design and start food forests is a learning experience in itself, and is best learned through doing. You learn not only how to plant a food forest, but how to work with others, and how to imagine how a place can change over time.
- In 5-10 years when the forest does start producing, the harvest will be much more meaningful and will less likely go to waste.
Permaculture isn’t about designing something to be unchanging and final–nature doesn’t work like that– but it is about designing something that will be useful through multiple stages of growth, and not only to oneself, but to all beings sharing the same environment. We (the intern staff) hope that this exercise in thinking long-term will, in itself, have a long-term impact.
Click here to read more about our food forest design and why we are using it in our Permaculture Design for CSC’s 8.7 acres.
Come visit our newly-planted food forest (and see other exciting innovations!) here on June 8th.