Read on to learn why planting a food forest is a natural choice for restoring healthy communities of all kinds!  

Are you yearning for community? You’re not alone. These days, many if not most people suffer from feelings of isolation, disconnection, and/or alienation in at least one area of their lives, at least some of the time. 

For some, these feelings of loneliness and separation have reached crisis proportions. Humans are social beings; we need community. Lack of contact with others can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and immune system impairment, amongst other problems.

But our need for community goes far deeper than just human-to-human contact. People need connection to Nature as well—so much so that journalist Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” back in 2005 to describe the impact on children of our society’s trend towards shunning the outside world in favor of indoor activities and virtual experiences.

The Nature of Community 

Spending time in Nature has been proven time and again to result in a multitude of health benefits – from lower incidence of various chronic illnesses to higher levels of happiness and well-being. 

And it’s no wonder: Nature itself is built of community. From the micro level of particles coming together to create atoms, to the macro level of stars congregating into galaxies, everything in Nature depends on relationship and community building to create a sustainable universe. 

So doesn’t it make sense to emulate Nature if we want to reverse the trend of isolation in human society? And what better way to start than by planting a food forest in your own yard or in your community?  

Photo of children's hands with seedling for food forest planting
Planting a food forest is easy, enjoyable, and has so many benefits for family and community!

7 Ways Food Forests Build Community

Why is planting a food forest such a natural fit for community building? Because from soil to harvest, food forests are designed with relationships in mind! Here are 7 ways planting a food forest helps build community at all levels: 

  1. Food Forests Build Healthy Soil Communities.

You may have heard the phrase “as above so below?” Well, when it comes to soil the reverse is also true: as below so above. Healthy soil is the foundation of healthy human bodies – and healthy soil is all about community! 

A central goal of food forest design and maintenance is to encourage healthy soil communities. A single teaspoon of fertile garden soil contains more microorganisms than there are human beings on the planet. Cultivating the right balance of these little critters in the soil—along with other soil community members such as earthworms, arthropods, nematodes, plants and algae, fungi, moles and voles, and others—makes for a thriving soil community that supports and nourishes all other communities on earth—including yours! 

  1. Healthy Plant Communities

In contrast to most other approaches to farming and gardening, permaculture designers think in terms of plant communities (called guilds) when designing a food forest blueprint. A guild is a grouping of perennial plants—including trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, and flowers—that grow well together in community. Plants in a guild actually support each other to become healthier and more productive collectively than any one of them could be by itself in the same place. 

3…and Healthy Communities of Wildlife

Thriving wild communities of plants and animals have so much to offer. In addition to its intrinsic beauty and value, wilderness acts as a repository for genetic diversity. Some wild areas and species are also economically valuable to humans—including wild pollinator populations! 

While food forests aren’t intended to be wilderness, they can indeed provide food and shelter to all kinds of wildlife, including migratory species such as songbirds and butterflies. And these wild creatures provide services to the food forest in return, including pollination, soil fertilization, and pest control. 

Finally, there are vast spiritual benefits to attracting wildlife close to home. Sharing our yard with wild things helps us reconnect with all of Nature, healing the disconnect many of us have come to feel has resulted from our overly technological existence. 

But food forest community doesn’t stop there. Planting a food forest offers so many more opportunities for building community at the human level! 

  1. Food Forests Help Families Grow Healthy and Happy Together

Children learn best by observing and interacting in the real world. Planting a food forest offers an ideal opportunity to bond with and teach kids of all ages in a fun way that contributes to the health and well being of the whole family. Whether it’s watching the cycle of life unfold right in their backyard, or enjoying the delicious harvest together as a family, kids love food forests! 

Small child planting a food forest
Kids love food forests! Helping plant and tend to a food forest is a fun and safe activity for children of all ages.
  1. Food Forests Grow Good Neighbors

In days gone by, neighbors would watch out for each other. But who these days even knows who their neighbors are? Nowadays it can be hard to even find a way to break the ice.

They say good fences make good neighbors. And that may be true. But when you start sharing the abundance of delicious organic food spilling out of your backyard, you may find that goodwill does just as good a job, if not better. 

With a food forest, the phrase “Treat your neighbor as yourself” takes on a whole new meaning. A food forest virtually dares you to hop on over to your neighbor’s house with an armful of treats from your garden. Or, you may find they naturally wander over to admire your beautiful edible landscape. You might even find that your food forest becomes a gathering spot for kids or even adults in your neighborhood to catch up with each other and share the bounty. What better way to start building community back into our neighborhoods? 

  1. Transforming Business Communities: Fostering a “Growth” Economy the Sustainable Way

Economists consider “growth” to be a sign of a healthy economy. Unfortunately, uncurbed economic growth has historically gone hand in hand with environmental destruction. That’s because most of our economic activity is based on extraction of natural resources – basically raping and pillaging the Earth. 

There are many arguments to alternative economic models such as a “steady state,” or physically non-growing economy. However, this does not reflect the way of Nature. Natural systems are growth systems; however they are not based on extraction but on efficient use of available solar input. Over time Nature’s approach has resulted in a rich layer of fertile soil over what started out as bare rock, and a mind-boggling diversity of life forms which continue to evolve in complexity. 

So clearly, we can still engage in a “growth” economy. However, we must do it on Nature’s terms, not our own. 

Planting a food forest in your backyard may seem like a simple step. However it is a step that is fully in line with Nature’s economic plan. While not everyone wants to turn their food forest into a business venture, there is plenty of opportunity for those who do.

From truly sustainable food production to cottage industry to educational services—to just providing a hands-on, real-life example of what sustainable growth and true abundance really looks like—food forests can help pave the way for business communities to get back in sync with Nature. And I predict that when they do, we’ll see an economic boom like the modern world has never seen! 

Photo of berries and local produce
  1. Food Forests Protect Local and Regional Communities

Today’s food distribution model relies on industrial farms and an extensive supply chain to supply populations far removed from the means of food production. Any disruption to the system – including fuel shortages, labor strikes, grid failure, or crop failure – can endanger communities dependent on the system. 

Planting food forests helps to mitigate this danger by establishing local, non-centralized food production in every region. A city, township, or region where enough food forests exist is much less likely to suffer from supply chain disruptions. 

In addition, food forests provide green spaces and green corridors, which have been proven to have many benefits for communities, including violent crime reduction. Wouldn’t it be smart to plant one in your community? 

Interested in Planting a Food Forest? 

Planting a food forest doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your food forest design, installation, and more!