Get the dirt on Food Forest Farm
We are at the heart of the movement to relocalize, regenerate, and re-skill our communities.
Who We Are
At Food Forest Farm we help people create low-maintenance, regenerative food systems. We grow, supply, and teach about perennial vegetables and other multipurpose plants. We work with our clients to design and build gardens, and lives, that are sustaining and nourishing for people and planet. We are at the heart of the movement to relocalize, regenerate, and re-skill our communities.
Our mission is to grow resilience for people and planet.
Food Forest Farm is co-owned and operated in Brooktondale, NY by husband and wife team, Jonathan Bates and Megan Barber. Jonathan launched Food Forest Farm in 2010 as a creative response to the “weed problem” in the edible forest garden (known as “Paradise Lot”) we co-managed with Eric and Marikler Toensmeier of Perennial Solutions. For a while, Jonathan had been noticing that many of our beloved plants were reproducing like rabbits and getting weedy. Putting his “problem becomes a solution” goggles on, he began to think about selling plant propagules as a way to make our garden system even more productive - and we began to consider the possibility of our garden not just growing food, but also making us a living. Helping to get more edible forest gardens planted seemed like a beautiful solution to our excessive baby plant problem. As a result of a two-year hobby nursery experiment, spending many months rethinking the forty-hour workweek, a little human intuition, and lots of support from family and friends, Food Forest Farm was born in spring 2010.
Managing Food Forest Farm together makes our family vision statement a reality: We have a simple, creative life, full of family and friends, laughter and love, connected to the land and supported by meaningful work, with the time to appreciate it and experience it fully.
In June 2017 our family and business moved to a new place. We are in the process of developing a new edible forest garden and food forest nursery and business at Shelterbelt Farm in Brooktondale, NY. We have inspiring new plans and we are excited to share the progress with you on this web site. Come back often for updates, or Get The Dirt here and learn about what we are up to.
Come join us in learning and growing.
Jonathan has been learning, thinking and teaching ecologically for two decades. He’s co-designed and regenerated dozens of landscapes in the CT River Valley and now lives in Ithaca area of New York. He his on the board of the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, rents farm space at Shelterbelt Farm, and is contributing author of the award winning book "Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City", and also contributed to "Silvopasture: A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm Ecosystem". Jonathan loves sharing his passion for life with friends and family, and working with folks to better the world we live in. You can learn more about him, and his regenerative business, including individual and group coaching at FoodForestFarm.com
Megan Barber moved to Paradise Lot in 2007 and began working for Food Forest Farm in 2013. Her father, who grew up on a dairy farm, warned her not to make a living from farming. Oh well. Along with enjoying the “businessy” aspects of the farm (she’s a self-described “management nerd” with an MBA), Megan experiments with ways to cook and use the plants we grow and sell. She is also an artist, community leader, and a Life-Cycle Celebrant.
Our Relationship with Permaculture
What is permaculture? Good question! Permaculture is a design process to meet human needs while increasing ecosystem health. It is also a network of people, has a history, and is an international movement. Based on ethics and principles, permaculture is one tool in our toolbelt of life design.
Food Forest Farm is grounded in the permaculture ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Resource Share.
Here are some notes on how we are currently following these ethics:
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.
Elizabeth brings experience in nonprofit leadership, sustainable farming and food sovereignty. As founding director of Common Good City Farm, she transformed a baseball field into a productive urban farm and grew the nonprofit from the ground up. Her passion for food production, equitable food access and a collaborative style was seminal to the urban agriculture movement in D.C. Elizabeth holds a dual MA from American University, is a graduate of multiple anti-racism trainings, and serves on the board of the Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County. She can often be found on the small agroforestry farm she runs with her partner, Wellspring Forest Farm, or in the woods with her dogs.
Steve Gabriel is an ecologist, forest farmer, and educator living in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. He passionately pursues work that re-connects people to the forested landscape and supports them to grow their skills in forest stewardship. He is Agroforestry Extension Specialist for the Cornell Small Farm Program and co-owns Wellspring Forest Farm & School with his wife Elizabeth, where they produce mushrooms, maple syrup, duck eggs, pastured lamb, and elderberry extract, all from forest-based systems.
Eric is a co-designer and primary care taker of our Paradise Lot garden in Holyoke, MA. He has studied, practiced, and promoted perennial agriculture for almost three decades. He is an appointed lecturer at Yale University, a Senior Researcher with Project Drawdown, and an international trainer. Eric is the author of The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agricultural Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security. Other books his written include Edible Forest Gardening (with Dave Jacke), Perennial Vegetables, and Paradise Lot (with Jonathan Bates). His work bridges the worlds of practitioners, policymakers, scientists, and the general public.