Discover Forest Foods is a food growing project at Higher Farm, Beeson, South Devon, using agroforestry’ principles. It started in Autumn 2011 and is an initiative of Trees for Health. Higher Farm is an organic working farm where there are many opportunities for school children, the local community and visitors.
Agroforestry means “the growing of both trees & agricultural/ horticultural crops on the same piece of land”. Two ways of doing this are forest gardening & alley cropping:
Forest gardens are similar to tropical gardens in the South. Many different crops are grown together for food & other uses, based on the natural layers found in a forest. A forest garden here similarly mimics the layers found in a woodland replacing the species with temperate crops that have edible or other uses.
Alley cropping is a system closer to conventional farming but utilising rows of trees with beds of annual and/ or perennial crops in between. These systems elsewhere have shown interesting effects on crops such as shelter, disease buffering, moisture retention, plant interactions and higher yields.
Discover Forest Foods has a forest garden of over an acre and the remainder is alley cropping. We are growing many well-known fruits such as apples, pears, plums, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, strawberries and cherries. Plus the more unusual such as mulberries, medlar, quince, greengages, cherry plums, Autumn olive, large hawthorn varieties, Japanese wineberry, chokeberry, jostaberry, juneberry and sea buckthorn. We also have trees & shrubs for nuts, salad, spice, dye, weaving, wood and nitrogen fixing. Annual crops include vegetables, grains & legumes. Perennials include herbs, brassicas, the onion family, asparagus, rhubarb and beets.
The Discover Forest Foods design
Alley 1: Dye/weaving trees Alley 2: Wood trees Alley 3: Nut trees Alley 4: Apple/pear trees
Beds a-c: Annual crops on rotation and grain /legume trials.
Bed d: Perennial crops, raised beds, ponds, composting, education & seating area.
The project has joint aims:
• provide an educational resource for schools, the community & visitors.
• sell food to nearby local towns & villages, thereby reducing food miles, improving food security & creating links in the community.
• provide local people with an opportunity to access the countryside.
• Create an ecologically diverse & healthy food system.
• mirror the principles of diverse ‘home gardens’ found in tropical areas, inspired in particular by Ugandan farmer, Charles Mulwana who visited the farm in 2011 & 2012.
Discover Forest Foods is a not for profit enterprise aiming to become financially sustainable in the long term once the trees and shrubs are in full production. Plus we have community, ecological and educational aims. You can get involved or help in the following ways: