Courses/WorkshopsFood ForestsPlant SystemsTrees

Food Forest Workshop at the PRI’s Zaytuna Farm

Would you like to have food for your family now and into the future — food that is truly fresh and packed with flavour, and food that doesn’t cost the Earth? Would you like it to be grown in a way that not only doesn’t destroy soil, but builds it instead, so that people can be fed long after you’re gone? Would it be asking too much for this food to be grown in a way that cleans the air and the water as it passes through, and which contributes to climate restoration?

What you need is a food forest.

Once a rainforest, then cleared for timber and grazing land, a food forest now
grows around this old decaying stump from the original forest.

It has been known for a long time that wild forests provide ecosystem services of purifying air and water while building soil. These systems are capable of supporting large predatory and opportunistic species of animals with no substantial inputs from outside the system other than sunlight and the weather. (In reality the weather is more of a relationship between the forest and the sun than an input.)

This Black Sapote (sometimes called chocolate pudding fruit) sits in a pool
of light coming through foliage of surrounding support species

If the residents of a forest can survive by relying on each other, then why not create a system that mimics this, but which is assembled of species that are of even greater direct use by us humans? Why not let the plants, animals, fungi and other elements do most of the maintenance work themselves, instead of their relying on us humans to help them survive and thrive?

The oldest food forest on the property across the dam from the classroom

Why not come and learn how to establish and maintain a food forest for yourself in a 3-day workshop at Zaytuna farm, starting on Wednesday, September 21, led by Permaculture designer, consultant and educator Gordon Williams.

The workshop presents a unique opportunity to experience all things food forest at a site with plantings over eight years of age. Don’t miss out! Book Now.

The first coffee berries coming on in the understory


  1. Any suggestions on good trees/shrubs to plant in central-south Texas, USA. Very dry, prone to drought and yet some years rains a ton. Caliche type of soil, quite alkaline in nature. The land is very sloped and facing south east.It freezes several days in winter. Sunners are often between 32 and 37degrees celsius. Plenty of hungry deer around too. I was thinking figs, peaches, pears, pomegranates, maybe jujubes etc.. but would love some suggestions for other trees, shrubs and possible guilds, as well as good nitrogen fixers for such a situation. Was also thinking of protecting trees from deer with fencing material around each tree.

    Any help is greatly appreciated!!!

  2. Darren, try Permaculture Plants by Jeff Nugent and Julia Boniface and when you plant out your fruit trees give them plenty of TLC. Essentially, in any food forest containing “orchard” type trees, you need to provide compost and nutrient support if you actually want a half decent harvest. There are few examples, except perhaps in Sth America, of successful food forests that generate a harvest.

  3. Oyvind – the realities of your extreme north climate is that the pre- (and, I would wager, post-fossil fuel era) for this climate necessitated more meat/dairy/fish consumption. You have a very short, but rapid growing season. Like in Alaska, you can grow very large vegetables due to the sun’s incessant circling over the few summer months. I’ve seen giant carrots, beets, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. etc. in both Norway and Alaska. But there’s only so much storage you will manage over the long winter. (think sauerkraut and other perserves).

    ‘Food’ that keeps itself alive and warm over multiple seasons (aka, animals), and which themselves produce other edible substances (butter, cheese, eggs) and by-products (wool, fur, soap, leather, etc.) help here. And of course, the traditional Norwegian diet featured a lot of seafood (stop those oil rigs and factory fishing ships!).

    I’m a veggie wherever possible, but recognise that having a low-carbon and LOCAL diet in such a climate as yours is challenging. There would be some hardy apple and pear varieties you could use. If you had good microclimate optimisation, possibly some sour cherry, and maybe even apricot? If any cold-climate readers are listening in, I’m sure they could give better advice….

  4. @Craig, I planted three cherry trees and two froze to deadth, three apple trees and one froze to deadth and one half dead but was gnawed to deadth by mice next winter. The one that survived trives very well. The pear and apple tree froze to deadth. Down by Lake Mjøsa they would probably survive, but not up at my cabin. The hazel nut tree seems to thrive very well, but I wonder if the nuts will have time to ripe until winter? Black and red currants do very well too.

    So I need some very hardy sorts for my food forest, and I should also like to have some sorts that don’t need “trimming/cutting”, a kind of wild sorts to take care all by themselves.

  5. Yeah, it’ll be tough and a bit of experimenting will be in order, not only with varieties, but also positioning and heat traps, etc.

    I’m sure you’ve done it already, but if not, be sure to find people on the WPN in similar climates as yourself, and make contact with those who look like they know what they’re doing. :) This kind of thing is exactly why we made the WPN.

  6. Oyvind, your climate in not unlike Canberra in Australia where I used to live. -10C in winter is common, and Canberra is 600mtr above sea level and only gets about 600mm of rain. It is in a “bowl” of mountains which traps the cold air. Craig’s comment on varieties (look for High Chill Varieties), heat traps etc are valid. I grew almonds, figs, Mariposa Blood plums, Nectarines, Cherries, Mulberries, a satsuma variety of Mandarin, the most fantastic purple skinned garlic, even Tomatoes (cherry varieties seemed to do well). Dried tomatoes are a delight in winter soups or pasta.
    One thing I learned is that cold air flows and pools like water, avoid planting in hollows or against features which capture it, plant on slopes or mounds that “drain” the cold away. Build “swales” to divert cold around plants. I had a heat trap near one corner of the house, Jonquils planted there flowered 2 months earlier than Jonquils on the “cold” shaded side of the house. Start plants indoors or a green house & plant when frosts are finished. I never tried a poly tunnel, but that might help too. Use guilds to shelter more sensitive plants, especially until they get established.

  7. Hi all,

    I’m a beginner in Permaculture/Gardening, and want to start a food garden in my north facing sloping backyard (South East Coast of NSW). It’s also directly across from the beach… Any thoughts of where to start?

    Much appreciated


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