Are Food Forests mainstreaming

Last year I was teaching social media to a group of Graduate students at The Centre for Sustainable Practice, one of the Otago Polytechnic schools, based in Wanaka. That's where I met Andy Cambeis, who's major project was to establish a food forest on public land in Hawea Flat. What I didn't realise until the end of the year, was that he was documenting the process in a way that others could benefit from.

When I read the first draft of his "Manual for creating a Food Forest on Public Land" I was delighted and excited. Here was a paint-by-numbers process, written in a beautifully summary form, with links to every detail one could possibly want, and all very relevant to the New Zealand situation. I knew this was my project for 2013 - to establish the first public access Waiheke Food Forest.

But what's been happening in the last few weeks has been quite astounding... beginning two weeks ago, as I prepared for presenting our Waiheke Food Forest project to the Waiheke Local Board, I learnt of three new Food Forest projects across Aotearoa, and this was a hint that there was some real movement in this space.

Four days later I received a persistant phone call – on the third ring I finally answered it, and I'm glad I did. A polite and well spoken man was wanting to know if I was using, because if not he wanted it.

I was clear that I wasn't about to hand this over but suggested we meet. Over a coffee two days later, as we shared our stories, it was clear, we both saw Aotearoa abundant with forests of food. This proud Manawatu farmer shared his vision of 10 acre food forests, up and down the country, in those highly visible locations some farms are blessed with. We’ll be meeting up again soon – with time to flesh out some details and explore possibilities.

At Tuwharetoa MaraeOn Friday I went to spend time with the CSP community at Awhi Farm, and the neighbouring Marae of the Tuwharetoa. The number of times the term Food Forest was mentioned or the subject of a conversation, was astounding!

Then at the start of the following week, I found myself in a Facebook chat with a woman who’s energy and commitment to building a better world is truly formidable. It concluded with an invitation to help them create two new food forests on private land – one large, one small.

Later that same day, I gave a Pecha Kucha talk on Food Forests, organised by the lovely Jane Zimmermann and Luka Hinse. By the way, if you have something to share it’s a great format – 20 slides and 20 seconds each – so you get to tell your message in under 7 minutes, then let the next person inspire and inform you. A half-way break allows for lots of conversation, and everyone goes home with some new ideas.

The day after the Pecha Kucha talk I received an enquiry from a Postgraduate student in publishing, who was offering to “turn Andy’s Manual into an eBook / downloadable pdf / app. The idea being to make the content easy to share, easy to find and beautiful”.

So the last two weeks pretty much covered the spectrum of possibilities, from community to commercial, from private to volunteer. It seems people are seeing wisdom and sense of starting now – to grow food in systems designed to mimic resilient forest eco systems and produce an abundance of food, with modest human input and negligible reliance on fossil fuel.

The last time I felt a wave of change like this, was back in 2008, during the early months of supporting the growth of Transition Towns Aotearoa.

Bring it on!

Are Food Forests mainstreaming

Great blog thanks James. I am putting in the main trees for a small private food forest in 2 weeks, and will look through your links before then with interest - your Facebook group looks like it has some great info in it. I appreciate having some NZ based examples to look over. Thanks for the information.

Smiles, Laine

Had more conversations today

Today I learnt about a commercial scale (20 Hectare) Food Forest being planned, and some more 10 acre ones. What part of NZ is yours. I'm planning a road trip to visit and meet people who are active in this space. It would be awesome to connect. You can also private message me via if you'd prefer.

Hey James, I am just outside

Hey James, I am just outside of New Plymouth. Will send you an email with details.