Anyone with a food forest now has a new tool at their disposal for inputting their harvest figures. The data gathered will reveal whether food forests really are as productive as forest owners think. As well as looking at yields of crops unique to the forest, the tool also measures biodiversity, soil quality and carbon storage in the soil.
The Measure Your Food Forest Harvest tool uses various tests to provide an insight into the ecological and economic value of a food forest, as well as biodiversity value and the extent of carbon storage in the soil. The tool is based on the concept of citizen science, where citizens are able to participate in scientific research. Measure Your Food Forest Harvest is available for anyone to use. Measurements are straightforward to perform. Using this scientific framework will enable food forest owners to compare their own forests with others. The tool will also generate interesting data for scientists.
The tool launched with 40 testers. The more participants it gets, the more reliable the tool will become, according to Jeroen Schütt at Wageningen Environmental Research, who researched the measurement method. “If many people participate in measuring food forest harvests, the data collected will become highly relevant,” says Schütt. “We all stand to benefit from greater insights into the composition of biodiversity, soil life and carbon storage in food forests. For food forest owners, it’s useful and fun to be able to monitor your own forest and to be able to compare it to others in the system.”
Marieke Karssen at The Plant is the project leader for Measure Your Food Forest Harvest. According to her, the strong interest in the tool indicates that people want to be able to measure their own food forest. “We’re seeing lots of registrations by food forest owners, but also by forest groups, conservation officers and the agricultural sector. We’re really pleased about that, because food forests are meant to bring nature and agriculture closer together. We hope to use a follow-up project to address calls to build a community and develop lobbying power. We invite everyone to participate in this.”
Jeroen Kruit at Wageningen Environmental Research is the coordinator of the Green Deal Food Forests, which has brought government authorities, innovators and facilitators together with the common objective of increasing the acreage of food forests in the Netherlands. Kruit is also delighted that people are so enthusiastic about performing their own measurements. “Green Deal Food Forests has a number of different research projects underway which are all focused on generating scientific evidence in support of the potential of food forests.”
The tool was developed with the support of a POP3 rural development grant issued through the EU and the province of Gelderland. It was designed by Wageningen University & Research, De Lynx communications, Food Forest Ketelbroek, the Welna country estate, and The Plant.