Click on the questions below to view answers to customer questions. If you are unsure about a question you can always use the search box. If you still can't find an answer please use the form at the bottom of this page.
Do you send instructions with your plants?
Yes, we now ship a one page basic instruction sheet with each order. Also, the description of each plant in our store is a good start for understanding the plants’ needs (i.e. zone, sun/shade, soil requirements). In terms of installation of the plants and plant care after planting, most of our plants can be treated similarly to any perennial plant care recommendations you may be using.
What size are your plants?
All shipped plants are now shipped dormant or young sprouting and bare root. If we ship you a dormant potted plant it will be in a four inch pot and include one plant (bulbs usually come in a "bunch"). Plants are from 4 months to 2 years old. Many of the perennial vegetables are dug seedlings, divisions, or root cuttings. We expect that you will take the plant out of its packaging and plant it into your beautiful garden or landscape! Remember, all our plants will grow and live for many years, so be sure to plant them with enough space to accommodate their full size.
Why don't you sell more kinds of plants, and where are all the trees/shrubs?
Good question. We've experimented with many different species and varieties of plants over the years. The current list of offerings meets three goals: First, they are the plants our customers have been most interested in purchasing from us. Second, we add one or two new plants each year to keep the inventory and our interest fresh, while removing one or two of the plants that don't sell as well or become less interesting. Third, they are mostly the plants we've had the best success in our unique production system, with the least cost to produce and ship. We feel these goals are a good win-win for us and our customers. Trees... Well, we tried different tree/shrub species over the years, particularly focusing on trees that have seed bearing staples like chestnuts and hazels, or fruits like gooseberry. We've found that they don't sell that well for us, and that other nurseries offer better products. If you are interested in a great selection of hardy fruit and nut trees, try Oikos Tree Crops, or search for local nurseries in your area.
Will this plant grow or ripen fruit where I live?
You never know for sure until you try, and we encourage you to experiment. For a little more guidance check out this zone hardiness map:
Do you sell seeds?
No. We've decided to focus our energies on the plants. It turns out that our seeds are more valuable to us as plant-starting material. We may sell seeds again in the future, we'll let you know if we do.
Do you sell wholesale?
No. We have done some wholesaling in the past but have decided to focus on our retail markets. We found that we would have to expand our business much larger than is the scale we currently enjoy. Some day we would like to "scale up" by partnering with other small nurseries or even support a "collective" of nurseries. But at this time retail is our niche.
What is your replacement policy?
We very much appreciate your support and business. Installing and caring for a garden can be a challenge and a joy. Food Forest Farm strives to produce the best quality, healthiest plants, grown using organic methods. Our planting stock come from vigorous long-lived parents. Many of the plants in our inventory are genetically strong, being known to thrive during periods of neglect. Even though we don’t think you’ll need to use it, we do have a replacement policy: If you install a plant immediately after its arrival (within a few days), soak the ground with 1 inch of water/rain per week for a few weeks, and then if it dies, let us know and we will replace your plant free of charge. If it dies months later, you would have to purchase a new plant. We hope this seems fair. If not, you are welcome to call us to make your case.
When is my credit card charged?
We charge your credit card the day you place your order on our website. We do not wait and charge the card when the plant is shipped. Two reasons... First our accounting system can only process credit cards automatically the day of the order. We would need to hire staff to process the orders at a future date, at great expense to us. Second, we appreciate the Community Supported Agriculture model used by thousands of farms across the country, where member customers pay up front months before seeing a single vegetable. As a farm ourselves, this provides us with working capital so that we can continue to run a successful business during the slower months (we receive your money; we know how many plants to prepare ahead of time for shipping in the spring; you are assured a good product that is shipped when it is ready).
Do you ship bare root plants?
Yes. All plants shipped in the fall and spring are now bare root shipped. If you would like to buy potted green growing plants you will need to order and pick up at our nursery in person.
Do you ship to other countries?
No. There are lots of complicated processes involved with shipping to other countries. Right now we have plenty of work getting these awesome plants to people locally and regionally. We are ramping up our shipping this year. Maybe in the future we can expand to other parts of the world. We'd love to have you visit us, and save on shipping!
What shipping service do you use?
We like to support the United State Postal Service, and ship 3 day priority ground. Currently we can't make the time or have the infrastructure to ship through multiple shipping organizations. This means that some customers may need to have their package sent to a secondary address. We do not ship to "non-deliverable addresses", or P.O. Boxes. To make sure the plants get in the ground ASAP, we ask that you are available to receive the package the day it arrives. If the plants come damaged to your door, please let us know. Please see our replacement policy above for more information.
When do you ship your plants?
Spring season orders (orders placed between November and March) ship in March/April, before plants break dormancy. Fall season orders (orders placed between April and October) ship October/November once plants go dormant. We ship on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. When you place your order you will need to select shipping details. We reserve the right to change your shipping time due to weather and production challenges. If early spring growing conditions are to cold in your area, like frozen ground in March/April, we recommend storing our bare root plants in the ridge, healed in some above ground mulch outside, or in a cool basement until the ground is ready, or order for fall planting instead.
Classes and Events
Do you give refunds for classes and events?
It depends on the event:
Custom Tours: If you contact us to schedule a personal tour or special group tour we can give partial refunds when notified a month before the tour date, or due to unforeseen emergencies.
Public Tours: When you purchase a ticket to one of our public tours you are agreeing to fill that limited spot. We don’t have a waiting list, and cannot give a refund at this time.
Classes/Courses: In general we need a month notice for partial refunds. It also depends… each class/course may have it’s own refund policy. If you are unsure, please look carefully at the fine print, or contact us before paying.
Permaculture and Food Forests
What are Food Forests?
We like the way Jonathan’s sister, Jessica Bates, owner of Food Forest Farm West, says it:
“The idea of food forests comes from the pre-industrial farming practices of many indigenous peoples. Using the structure of a forest system and its many layers, these early farmers incorporate(d) food production into existing eco-systems in stark contrast to the “slash and burn” or clear cutting methods of modern agriculture, which requires annual tilling of the soil, and continuous inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides to support an unnatural monoculture.
Learning from the wisdom of our ancestors, and those cultures still growing with these methods, we can mimic the context of a forest using edible and medicinal perennial plants.
The benefits of the food forest system work in a dynamic way with the environment so that soil is built not tilled, and it requires much less (if any) weeding, watering or chemical inputs. Besides being both ecological and practical, food forests can also appeal to an overall sense of beauty, harmony and well being.”
Why a permaculture nursery, vs just a regular old plant nursery?
If you are asking this question you are probably familiar with permaculture enough to know the three permaculture ethics of: Earth Care, People Care, and Resource Share.
These are also our guiding ethics, and here is how we are currently following them...
Earth Care: We use organic soil and soil additives; ship in recyclable packaging; use benign pest control methods; educate about growing in these ways; provide plants for regenerative landscapes; are a human scaled enterprise, and reuse, recycle, repurpose, and reclaim resources often.
People Care: Our nursery and homestead are healing a degraded landscape in the city; we share our work with the community and world; we treat customers and volunteers with respect and gratitude; we are human scaled, infinite expansion is not our goal; we seek out local business partners with similar values.
Resource Share: Sharing our knowledge is a top priority; we support permaculture throughout the region with our special pre-order delivery events, helping groups build their networks; we do one pro-bono design install per year for community groups; we offer discounts, grants and work trade to people facing economic hardships.
We are always striving to improve our enterprise by directing it towards the permaculture ethics. The struggle is described very well in this article by a friend, Rafter Ferguson.
Contact / Visits
Can I take a tour of your farm?
Yes! We offer regular tours of our demonstration garden, “Paradise Lot”. Visit this page for more information or to register.
Do you hire interns or employees?
We are currently a small family run business, so hiring help is not possible at this time. At times we may be able to bring on an apprentice or intern if they qualify through a sponsoring institution or organization (that will support paying a wage, stipend or needed expenses). We offer several “garden help days” throughout the year when people can come help. See this page for more information.
Why don't you give out your address? How do I find you?
We are a family-run, home-based business so to protect our privacy we don’t publish our address on line. We ask that visitors to our farm and garden make an appointment ahead of time. As part of the confirmation we will give you our address. We are located in Holyoke, MA. Check out our Contact page to learn more or ask a question.
This page is updated often. If you have a question that is not represented, please ask and it will be posted.