Edible forests take root across Manawatu

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 16/07/2013
Plant grower
WARWICK SMITH/ Fairfax NZ
GRUB GROWING: Ashhurst man Phil Stevens, in his garden, says anyone can grow a food forest.

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There's an eco-friendly, forward-thinking, grub-growing idea that's taking root in Manawatu, and it's called "food forests".

The green-thumbed trend is starting to get traction around New Zealand, with permaculture - where architecture meets agriculture - providing the base.

Auckland-based sustainability expert James Samuel is in Feilding tomorrow to talk about the alternative style of land husbandry and food forests.

He said Manawatu's farmland had potential to host fields of food forests.

"It's something that mimics a forest, is a stable ecosystem that doesn't require tending."

A typical food forest has layers of root crops, herbs, shrubs, plants, bushes, trees and climbing vines.

Samuel spearheaded the development of a community food forest on Waiheke Island four years ago and also drives New Zealand's online food forest community.

Since then he has been travelling the country, talking to communities about how they can start a food forest.

"It's an idea people understand and it doesn't take much. It is an old idea that is now making more economic sense and from an energy perspective, people are getting it," he said.

Ashhurst man Phil Stevens and his wife, Sharon, have used permaculture design on their hectare of land.

Space that was planted as an orchard now hosts fruit trees and berry bushes.

"Anywhere there's an open space we go, ‘Huh, I wonder what we can grow there'," Stevens said.

"Anyone can do it, because all you're doing is making use of three-dimensional space, unlike the conventional agriculture model where you have a monocrop, or a field, or a certain type of orchard with one or two types of fruit and nut trees.

"In a food forest what you try to do is stack these different plants in layers, mimicking what's happening in the natural world.

"The buzz of it has been increasing over the past few years, people are more interested in doing it and learning about it."

James Samuel will be at Marton's Arts and Craft Centre tonight from 6pm and at Feilding's New Life Church tomorrow from 7pm.

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- Manawatu Standard

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