Wednesday, June 6, 2012

East Kootenay Food Forest Will Demonstrate Benefits of Agroforestry

Increased interest and demand for regional food forest models and permaculture education is the motivation behind Clear Sky Meditation and Study Foundation's agroforestry demonstration in Fort Steele, BC.  With funding from the BC Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative, Clear Sky will design and implement a showcase food forest model for South Eastern BC that is both ecologically sound and productive.

Clear Sky's 1-acre food forest site will employ an integrated, sustainable agroforestry system that provides diverse harvests and builds soil health.  This project will test diverse food plant varieties arranged into multiple canopy layers and alleys, potentially including blueberry, haskap, raspberries, currants, apple, pear, plum, hawthorn, edible mountain ash, butternut, black walnut, bur oak, asparagus beds, and other herbaceous crops, together with an integrated wind break planting of caragana, linden, Manitoba maple and willow.

The food forest demonstration site will also serve as a learning platform for groups and individuals with the aim that it will help both farmers and urban dwellers understand the potential of, and increase their confidence to establish, diversified perennial-based food systems.  The demonstration will also help to increase the understanding of suitable plant selections for food forests in colder, drier areas of BC. 

There is growing need and desire to increase local food security and community resilience, as seen regionally with the popularity of the Cranbrook Farmers Market and groups such as the Local Food Action Committee.  The East Kootenay is traditionally a ranching area but many agricultural producers are struggling to keep their ranches viable.   Food forest agroforestry systems will offer opportunities for agricultural producers to bring new forms of income to their farms and this project will provide a working example for sustainable agricultural alternatives in the region.

One hands-on food-forest course will be held in 2013 as part of this project, focusing on the practical implementation methods of establishing agroforestry systems. This project integrates previous experience and expertise gained from permaculture trials at Clear Sky and will add additional learning opportunities to their annual Food Forest, Grasslands Restoration and Permaculture Courses.

Clear Sky Meditation and Study Foundation is both a non-profit and charitable organization.  Its primary mandate is to provide a venue for the teaching of meditation, health and well-being and the natural sciences, predominantly at its 310 acre property near Cranbrook / Fort Steele, BC.  Part of the Foundation's mandate is to operate 'Clear Sky Farm' as a dynamic exploration of organic, sustainable agriculture, with a special focus on permaculture and food forest systems.  Clear Sky proudly embraces a quadruple bottom line – financial, social, ecological and spiritual sustainability – while providing education, hands-on learning, and nourishing food to the community.

Clear Sky is run almost solely by a dedicated group of volunteers.  The Centre started an internship program aimed at youth in 2010, which brings young people to the centre for 3 months at a time in which they help with all aspects of running the center, including farming and green building.  This volunteer base will be a major support and asset for this project.

Learn more about Clear Sky at, and to learn more about this project, food forest workshops, or to volunteer on this project visit

Funding for this work has been provided through the BC Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative (AGF1203)