A Food Forest is a multi-layered diverse garden in which every plant serves several interconnected purposes. The plants are chosen for several reasons-some of which include food production, nitrogen fixing, creating mulch for soil building, and feeding pollinators. In an effort to mimic a natural forest the plants are grown in various layers: Canopy, shrub, herbaceous layer, vining layer, rhizome layer and ground cover. A Food Forest needs less inputs including time, water and fertilizer in order to sustainably produce food and other products.
The Food Forest can be a busy place! There are groups of kids taking part in programs such as People, Plants and Pollinators and The Future of Food, as well as adult education programs such as our spring and fall Herbal Harvest workshops, the Forest Gardens-they grow on you workshop and our regular composting education programs.
We harvest in season produce such as greens, herbs, edible flowers, root vegetables and berries regularly in order to supply local restaurants, and caterers with a diversity of locally adapted crops. We also harvest throughout the season to produce our Forest Garden Tea brand, which can be purchased at the Millard Learning Centre and at the Loose Leaf Tea and Papery in Sturdies Bay. We harvest the herbs at peak ripeness, then dry, blend and package on site. We currently have 7 different varieties of tea that are available seasonally.
The Food Forest is also home to our plant nursery which features over 60 varieties of Native and Food Forest friendly plants.
If your interest is piqued please come and check it out! We meet for a volunteer work party and questions every Thursday from 10-2pm. The site is also accessible to the public year round unless an education program is taking place-(this will be posted at the entrance to the Millard Learning Centre). Please get in touch with agriculture co-ordinator Cedana Bourne (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
The site and technique
The Food Forest site had very compacted soil, but it also had great sun exposure, wind protection and water drainage. In terms of resources, there were a good amount of rotting logs. Hugelculture beds seemed like the perfect option for our situation. Hugelculture beds are no dig raised beds that rely on a gradual decay of wood as a consistent source of nutrients, moisture and heat. The process of building a hugelculture bed involves building a big trench, filling it with rotting lots, covering it with the soil available on site and then covering that in mulch. Other nutrient rich materials like compost, seaweed and leaves are always welcome. Soil aeration increases as branches and logs break down and the logs act like as sponge and hold water over dry periods. Rainwater is stored in the logs and is released during drier times. The method has worked well for us as our Food Forest is a hot site and most of the plants have survived drought like conditions with the help of this set up.
Designing and building the Food Forest
In the Fall of 2015 Richard Walker and Javan Bernakevitch designed and led a Food Forestry workshop where community members and off island participants planted the 100 starter plants that seeded our Food Forest. Every year more perennial plants begin producing and increase the diversity of the harvest!
Our new Compost Hotspot provides hands-on education to island residents and GCA program participants on the full range of composting practices, tools, and available products. In addition, we compost organic wastes from GCA activities and partner restaurants in order to produce organic compost and fertilizers to support GCA agriculture.
Our compost facility demonstrates:
● Vermiculture, or worm composting- A vermiculture bin has been built from a repurposed bath tub, and filled with red-wrigglers (Eisenia fetida), and used to produce high-value worm casting fertilizer for use in the Food Forest.
● DIY Hot and Passive composting-A 3-bin composting system has been constructed out of locally-available new and recycled materials, and is used to demonstrate both hot and passive (cold) composting
● Bokashi composting- Bokashi bins, which rely on microorganisms present in bokashi bran to produce high-value compost through fermentation.
● Commercially Available Composters-we have a wide variety of plastic composting bins, tumblers, and digesters that are available on the market for people who do not wish to design and build their own, and we are happy to discuss the pros and cons of each.
● Compost Tea-A commercial scale compost tea aerator is installed to demonstrate the brewing and use of compost tea from worm castings and bokashi compost.
● Styrofoam composting-Recent scientific findings have shown that superworms (Zophobas morio) are capable of breaking down the complex polystyrene in styrofoam, resulting in organic castings that are biodegradable; a superworm terrarium is maintained on site to aid the composting of old styrofoam planters from our plant nursery
Cedana Bourne is GCA’s Agriculture and Nursery Coordinator. You can find her with her hands in the soil at the Native Plant Nursery, the Learning Centre’s Food Forest and the garden and greenhouse. Cedana is in her element when she can observe and participate in each stage of the cycle of life. Cedana is a herbalist who grows or wildcrafts the plants for the formulas she creates for her apothecary. Cedana is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who appreciates a delicious whole foods meal. She is a passionate preserver and loves to incorporate wild foods into all kinds of tasty creations from baking to bubbly brews to fermented concoctions.