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 Holyoke, MA 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-manage 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.
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 and lives in the CT River Valley and beyond. He helped start and is a board member of the Apios Institute, is a farmer with Nuestras Raices, Inc., and 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". 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.
Lisa is the owner of Mobile Design Lab. She’s studied with some of the most influential ecological thinkers of our time, and is a highly skilled teacher, inspirational leader, and thoughtful facilitator. We partner with her on many premier classes and workshops including Permaculture FEAST, and frequently collaborate with her on customer’s design projects.
Eric is our garden-mate and is owner of Perennial Solutions. He is a perennial agriculture expert, having authored the groundbreaking Edible Forest Gardening (with Dave Jacke), and award winning Perennial Vegetables, and informative packed memoir Paradise Lot (with Jonathan Bates). He teaches and consults internationally.