Food forests: farming of the future?

2019 has been the dryest ever year in the Netherlands. In particular the eastern provinces of the country have been severely effected by the drought. Farming has been hard hit, but a report on the local TV station Omroep Gelderland has highlighted the benefits both ecologically and commercially of food trees as a crop.

In the province of Gelderland in the south east of the Netherlands there are already tens of farms growing what the Dutch call ‘Voedselbossen’ (Food forests); more are being planted every year. Ten years ago Wouter van Eck purchased 2.5 ha of land near the village of Groesbeek.

Wouter van Eck
Wouter van Eck

Now more than 400 types of food producing trees and bushes have been planted. Crops vary from traditional hard and soft fruits to those yielding flowers and leaves for restaurants. Once planted the voedselbossen require little attention apart from harvesting the crops.

Growers such as Wouter are now trying to convince neighbouring farmers to use their model of permanent planting. The figures look good: each hectare of Wouter’s land produces a profit of 3000 EUR per year. The land previously produced only around 350 EUR with its original maize and rye grass crops. Beside the extra profit given by the permanent planting, the food forests have not been adversely affected by the drought; unlike his ‘conventional’ farming neighbours. According to Wouter and his customers this is the farming of the future.