About Food Forests
Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have moved away from a more natural method of growing crops towards a "more manageable" methodology. Thus, over the course of ten-thousand years, our agricultural societies have adopted large-scale mono-cultures where the same species of crop repeats for thousands of miles. While economical in theory, these practices decimate local environments and depletes the soil of certain key nutrients, resulting in the intensive use of artificial fertilizers. Furthermore, these monocultures are susceptible to disease and pests.
For millions of years, nature has been raising different species side-by-side in order to make the most of limited nutrients. Walking through any untouched area, you won't just see a single plant repeating over and over again; there's trees, smaller shrubs, grasses, and vines. Even then, there's not just one type of tree. There's dozens or hundreds of species coexisting, each with a specific niche to serve and fill.
A food forest reintroduces nature into agricultural practices. Rather than growing several acres of the same crop, food forests aim to grow multiple crops together. While more labor intensive, food forests are less susceptible to a singular disease or pest destroying an entire harvest.
Many modern-day food forests are smaller in size. However, due to their wide range of outputs, are more than sufficient to feed a family during the growing season.
In North America, the Iroquois grew the "Three Sisters" - corn, beans, and squash. The corn provided support, the beans pulled nitrogen from the air and fixed it to the soil while also holding the sisters close together, and the squash provided shade to the roots, preventing weeds. Furthermore, the prickly squash leaves also kept mice and raccoons away from the harvest, ensuring that the Iroquois would have food.
Recently, a 2000 year-old food forest was discovered in Morocco. It fed over 800 residents of an oasis town! They cultivated dates, papaya, citrus and bananas, while still having a dense and thriving under-story and ground level.
Our Food Forest
Phase One: The Orchard
Our 1,300 sqft "micro" orchard contains various collected herloom and specialty-crafted varieties.
We currently grow:
- Buddha's Hand Citrus
As we expand the orchard, we'd love to get some suggestions on what might do well in our sandy soil!
The orchard is currently triangle-shaped, with our nectarine tree forming the front tip. The orchard expansion would relocate the native cacti and shrubs section, allowing for the reclamation of 400 square feet.
Phase Two: Understory
The current understory has not been maintained to grow crops, but instead grows a variety of grasses and native shrubs. To increase the food yield of the area and turn it into a true food forest, the RCG team is looking at using leafy greens for ground cover, vines to grow along the future aviary supports, and berry bushes to provide our chickens with safe hiding places.
Current Leafy Greens:
Phase Three: Chicken Aviary
The aviary project would expand the orchard by over 400 square feet to 1,728 sqft. This would give us a 72 by 24 foot aviary with room for our 90 chickens and ducks to live in absolute comfort.
Sitting 16 above the ground, our aviary roof would be made from chicken netting to allow rain in, but keeping hawks, raccoons, and other predators out of our chicken sanctuary.
We decided upon 90 fowl as it would give us enough funds to hire a student worker to maintain RCG during the school year.
Aviary Design... DONE!
The design schematics for the aviary have been drawn up, which will be scanned in and uploaded soon.
Location and design have been checked by an independent structual engineer.
Idea has been approved by UC EH&S, Development and Planning, and Facilities Management.
Grant Writing... Started
Unfortunately, the Silvoforestry project was denied fund's from UCSD's Green Initiative Fund (TGIF). However, additional grants are in our sights!
Construction... Not started
First Harvest... Not started
Project construction required.