Dundee Hills Food Forest was founded on a passion for growing healthy food and a vision to build on the study of others working towards a new paradigm in food production; the practice of permaculture based systems rather than the current standard monoculture model.
Simply, this means the practice of growing multiple species of plants that benefit each other in some way in a space together. There are several great examples of highly functioning permaculture systems in many different climates around the world. In the Pacific Northwest there are many months of cloud cover with ample amounts of rain for much of the year. Generally there are warm, drier days from mid June to mid October. The temperatures are moderate and rarely extreme. All this creates an opportunity for a great diversity of thriving plant life, including many types of food crops.
On our small plot, we are working to build an ecosystem that will be highly functional and eventually very self- sustaining. This ecosystem will include many different trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, herbs, bulbs and annuals. A large amount of these plants will be medicinal or food producing while others will have varying important functions in creating balance and health on the property. In addition to diverse plant life, healthy ecosystems have a good balance of insect and animal life meaning wildlife habitat, food and shelter will also be incorporated into the design.
With time, observation and patience we believe we will be able to produce a large amount of edible and useful crops on a small amount of land while simultaneously increasing the health of the land on which the crops are grown.
WHAT IS A FOOD FOREST?
In nature, a healthy forest is the perfect ecological design. Nutrients and water are recycled, fertility is maintained naturally and health is abundant. Food forestry is an element of permaculture that focuses on creating a replication of a young forest. A food forest will contain large and small trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and herbs, annuals, root crops and vines. The plants are grouped together to maximize positive interactions and minimize negative ones. Fertility comes from the natural recycling of nutrients as the food forest goes through its yearly cycles.
Food forests have a few key features including vertical layers of plants, diversity, varying light levels, soil surfaces covered in plant growth and very little annual cultivation. These features work together providing many benefits including the ability to sequester carbon dioxide, the ability to prevent run off by storing more water in the soil, wildlife habitat, resilience to climate changes and extremes, high efficiency with less maintenance, a diverse range of crops and they are aesthetically pleasing. Keep in mind that food forestry is different than “growing food in a natural forest”.
Forests are living ecosystems and food forests are also created as such. This means that there is natural mulch, fertilizer, decomposition, pest control and resilience all creating a food production system with high productivity of healthy, diverse, nutrient dense food.
Food forests, like other forests, are site and climate specific. Each site and climate will have different plants, designs and functions. The clouds, rainfall, dry summers and temperate temperatures make the Willamette Valley a unique and exciting place to build a food forest.