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Community food forests

…are an innovative way to transform public green spaces, and effective collaboration is vital to their long-term success.

Fueled by the popularity of permaculture, agroecology, and agroforestry- community food forests are capturing the imaginations of people in neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the United States. Along with community gardens and farmers markets, community food forests can help create access to nutritious fresh food and promote environmental sustainability. But perhaps their most important outcome is the educational opportunities they provide in the process. They are interactive learning grounds focused on food- and eco- literacy as well as civic engagement for creating change in local food systems and urban green infrastructure. While interest in installing community food forests in public spaces is on the rise, the best ways to organize and lead groups of people to successfully create a food forest project has received little attention—until now.

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In The Community Food Forest Handbook, Catherine Bukowski and John Munsell dive into the civic aspects of community food forests, drawing on Catherine’s observations, group meetings, and interviews at over 20 projects across the country for her dissertation research. She also drew on her experience obtaining funding, designing, installing, and managing a food forest at the YMCA community garden in Blacksburg, VA. The authors combine the stories and strategies gathered during Catherine’s research with their extensive background in program management and community outreach to outline steps for creating lasting public food forests that positively impact communities. Concepts of community development, collective leadership, and project management are touched on among other topics.

The Community Food Forest Handbook draws on systems thinking and social change theory to focus on how to work inclusively with people and build on their strengths when conceiving of, designing, and implementing a community food forest. To find practical ground, the authors use the framework of community capitals to highlight the ebb and flow of resources such as volunteer participation, funding, tools and plants, advice from experts, and support from local government agencies from a project’s inception to its completion.

The Community Food Forest Handbook provides readers with helpful ideas for building and sustaining momentum, working with diverse stakeholders, integrating assorted civic interests and visions within a project, creating safe and attractive sites, navigating community policies, and more. Its concepts and examples showcase the complexities of community food forests, highlighting the human resilience of those who learn and experience what is possible when they collaborate on a shared vision for their community.

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Handbook Table of Contents


Observing and Reflecting

What Is a Community Food Forest?

Why Community Food Forests?

Social Design for Community Support 

Why This Book?

How to Use This Book 

Chapter 1: Community Food Forests on the Rise

Chapter 2: Systems Thinking for Community Food Forests

Chapter 3: Capital Investments in Community Assets

  1. Social Capital 
  2. Human Capital 
  3. Natural Capital 
  4. Cultural Capital 
  5. Political Capital 
  6. Built Capital 
  7. Financial Capital 

Chapter 4: Planning Fundamentals

Chapter 5: Planning to Create Change

Chapter 6: Rooting in History

Chapter 7: The Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park

Chapter 8: The Role of Agroecology

Chapter 9: Allies in Creating and Managing Public Space

Chapter 10: Basalt Food Park

Chapter 11: Reflecting on Community

Chapter 12: Building Social Systems

Chapter 13: Beacon Food Forest

Chapter 14: Collaborative Leadership

Chapter 15: The Bloomington Community Orchard

Conclusion: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Creativity and Community

Lessons Learned

Current Trends and Future Possibilities

A Legacy of Community Yields

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