Q&A with Darrell Frey & Michelle Czolba, authors of The Food Forest Handbook

By Shelley Pierce | May 27, 2018
by Shelley Pierce
May 27, 2018

Darrell Frey is a sustainable community development consultant and permaculture designer with nearly thirty years experience in the field. He is co-author of the Food Forest Handbook and the author of Bioshelter Market Garden: A Permaculture Farm (New Society Publishing 2011)

Michelle Czolba, M.Sc. co-founded the Hazelwood Food Forest and was co-owner of a Pittsburgh-based permaculture design business. She has extensive experience in the design and maintenance of perennial polyculture through personal and professional projects. Her formal training includes biology, chemistry, and herbalism, and she has earned a B.Sc. in Environmental Science and a M.Sc. in Sustainable Systems. After obtaining her Herbal Certification she founded a natural cosmetics company, and developed her own full line of handmade, wildcrafted and organic skin care products. You can find her as part of the team at threesisterspermaculture.com.

In their collaborative effort, “The Food Forest Handbook“, Frey and Czolba offer a practical manual for the design and management of a home-scale perennial polyculture garden complete with simple, straightforward instructions.  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of three copies from New Society Publishers!

1. The concept of a “food forest” might be new to some. What exactly is it, in a nutshell?

A Food Forest is a perennial garden with up to seven layers of useful plants. Picture an apple tree,with smaller shrubs, such as currants around the edge of the tree’s canopy. Among the shrubs herbs and flowers can be planted.

Plants in the food forest are chosen based on permaculture principles and generally have more than one purpose, for example a plant that is both edible and attracts beneficial insects.

2. Why should we pursue developing a food forest? What are the advantages over other types of gardening?

A food forest is a good way to maximize small spaces. Shade loving plants can be placed on the shady side of the tree and sun loving plants on the sunny side. Instead of a single harvest of fruit from a tree, a perennial polyculture can provide provide a number of crops in the same space. Additionally, food forests include plants that provide for the system itself, such as plants that fix nitrogen, are used for mulch, or attract pollinators.

3. Can those in rural and urban areas alike develop and grow a food forest? Does it require a lot of acreage?

Some people do plant and manage large scale forest gardens, but a food forest design can be as small as a couple hundred square feet.

4. How does your book simplify the design and planning of a food forest?

Our goal was to write a book that takes the reader through a simple step by step process to study their land, make a plan and manage their food forest on a scale that the home gardener can tend to easily. We do not go into excessive details on specific plants to use, rather we wanted to keep it simple and focused on the design process itself.

5. What are some features of your book that readers will find particularly useful and helpful?

The Food Forest Handbook has a main focus on understanding basic permaculture concepts that relate to food forest design. We also provide a number of instructive and inspiring examples of food forests around North America. The reader can go from an empty piece of land, through the design process, to planting and maintaining their edible landscape with easy to follow instructions and language. One does not need to be a permaculture expert to understand the concepts.

Win one of three copies of “The Food Forest Handbook“!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, June 3, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Why do you want to transform your land into a food forest?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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  • Christina Seward
    Comment added March 18, 2019Reply

    I'm excited about this book, it sounds really helpful.

  • Crystal Abel
    Comment added May 29, 2018Reply

    I want to transform my land into a food forest because I would love to be more self sustaining/sufficient for my family, animals, and the wildlife around me.

  • Sheila Hawthorne
    Comment added May 29, 2018Reply

    I’m interested in learning more about the food forest concept. As a landscape designer, I’m always educating myself so that I can give the best designs for my customers.

  • Anna Pry
    Comment added May 28, 2018Reply

    I want to be able to provide more of our family's food without harming the environment

  • Leslie Abbott
    Comment added May 28, 2018Reply

    I want to work with my landscape to provide food for myself, my family, wildlife and pollinators!

  • joshua ferguson
    Comment added May 28, 2018Reply

    It would just be awesome to be able to go out in my yard and pick fruits from tree and have fruits that are maybe not found easily in stores.

  • Deborah Rosen
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    I want to transform our land into a food forest for several reasons, chief of which is that we live in an organic food desert. I'd also like to be able to learn enough to help others transform their land, too.

  • Ed Yemola
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    I want to introduce more wildlife into my garden. I love seeing the animals in their natural environment.

  • Christina Miller
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    I’d love to be able to use the land I have to better feed my family! Gardening efficiently is so important to me.

  • Tracy Johnston
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    I have 1/2 acre in Southern California. It already has a few fruit trees, some garden plots, and a pond. I would like to make it into a food forest because I think it could be designed to handle the drought and water restrictions, and still be lush and productive. I expect it would make more food than I need, so I could share the excess with family, friends, and the community. The bare land is crying out to be used! I imagine a diverse ecosystem as well as a treat for the eye, nose, and ear (birds!).

  • Ann Marie Mones
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    Over the years I have slowly been transitioning my yard into an edible or useful landscape. A food forest integumentary me! I would love to win this book. The more I learn, the more successful my yard will be in sustaining me, and my pet cockatiels. Going thru the process of retirement now, I need to focus all the more on improving my edible and useful landscape. In case you were wondering about ‘useful’, outside my vegetable garden I grow beautiful pink old maids pinks, also known as soapwart. They attract bees, produce beautiful flowers, multiply like crazy, and small amounts of roots are used to make shampoo and soap, leaving my hair and body clean with no residues!

  • Erin Walsh
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    I started out just wanting to do something for the birds. I made a small area which turned out beautifully. It's part shade and sun, they have water and shrubs and plants that provide berries and shelter. It's still a work in progress, but I'm working on making an area for bees and butterflys next. The next logical step would be to add plants that provide food for us humans.

    My awareness of our eco system and the problems we face ahead has grown just by doing research on plants to use for what I've been doing and learning about what birds need to survive. I think it would not only be beneficial for all of us to learn to be more self sufficient, but in doing it, we might be helping, at least in small part to help in correcting some of the problems.

  • Samantha Stock
    Comment added May 27, 2018Reply

    I like the idea of making our own food for our family. Chemical free and nature guided :)

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