Food forest in the Kootenays

A concept drawing from birds eye view shows layers of trees and plants in a circular pattern.

The food forest concept is both sustainable and attractive. — Photo courtesy Clear Sky Farm

It might be a new term for most, but Clear Sky Farm has started developing an innovative cold-climate food forest on one acre near Fort Steele in the East Kootenay. Once established, the food forest will include a wide variety of trees, shrubs and other plants in a permaculture-based system that will produce food outside of a typical garden scenario.

Through the vertical stacking of multiple layers of useful plants, increased and more diverse food per square foot can be harvested, but in a thoroughly sustainable manner. The wide variety of mostly perennial plant species in a food forest provides greater overall stability and resilience to pests, diseases and climate than a mono crop system. Because soil is undisturbed by tillage and improved year after year through the leaf and root drop of plants in the system, the soil food web is also healthier, resulting in higher quality, more nourishing food. -AIDI blog post

The BC Agroforestry Industry Development initiative (AIDI) has provided funding for the demonstration project. The planting began in April 2013, and now most of the work is up to nature as the food forest grows to production.

Food Forests also invite community participation, learning and increased local food resilience. Michelle Heinz, Director of Operations at Clear Sky notes that “the opportunity for local growers and ranchers to contribute to sustainable local food security through creating food forest systems is clear, and food forest yields can also lead to the creation of local and innovative business opportunities.” -AIDI blog post

Kristen Mitchell

Kristen studied at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook and has worked in a variety of industries, from agriculture to construction, retail to restaurants. She now brings her understanding of the area to Kootenay Business magazine. View all of Kristen Mitchell’s articles

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