Why You Should Care About Project Food Forest

What is a Food Forest?

According to Project Food Forest’s website, “A food forest, also called a forest garden, is a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. Food forests are three dimensional designs, with life extending in all directions – up, down, and out”. Furthermore, “Food forests are a new farming concept in our area, but they have been used for thousands of years in other parts of the world. They are complex, just like nature.

Food Forests are unique and different from the traditional community gardens in key ways. Food Forests are made up of trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and roots. All layers of the ecosystem are incorporated.

Food Forests are also meant to be free and open to the public. Community gardens typically have leased land, requiring several hours of volunteer work or tending by the owner. Food Forests are perennial gardens, which when well-designed, are increasingly productive and abundant with time. Minimal upkeep is necessary, apart from gleaning food from the forest’s production.

Who is Project Food Forest?

Meet two passionate, intelligent and creative co-founders of Project Food Forest: Veronica Shulka and Jackie Severin.

Veronica has a BS in Business Management and Accounting as well as a Permaculture Design Certificate.

I want to fill Sioux Falls with as many edible plants as possible. I want to construct complex ecosystems throughout the city. I want to reduce our reliance on unsustainable agriculture. I want to reconnect people with nature. As simple as designing and planting edible ecosystems sounds, the affects on our community could be profound. It’s a holistic approach to tackling many of the problems we are facing today, making the outcome complex. Fortunately, others have joined me in my journey, and my dream is now their dream. Together, we’re going to do amazing things.

Veronica Shula, Co-founder Project Food Forest; Sioux Falls, SD

Jackie Severin has her MBA and Permaculture Design Certificate which she puts to excellent use through PFF.

 I hope we can learn and grow together and find the support we need to make our community and world a better place.

Jackie Severin, Co-founder Project Food Forest; Sioux Falls, SD

How does Project Food Forest Work?

After pledging to use a 1/4 acre of land toward a sustainable source of food through their website, these ladies came to my house to make my dream a reality.

Explores your existing plants:

Normally when plants I’d call “weeds” spring up among my deliberately planted crops, I pick them, assuming they don’t have a name nor a purpose. I feed them to the chickens or compost. Jackie and Veronica do just the opposite!  Before walking among the various fruit trees, the ladies discovered ferrel grape vines, edible berries, medicinal herbs, greens and grain plants within my landscaping and garden.

Pictured above are Aronia Berries- astringent and rich in antioxidants. As fresh berries, their flavor dries your mouth immediately, but almost no one eats them raw. After cooking, they are sweeter and added to jellies and jams. Also, these easily can be incorporated into smoothies.  The Co-op in Sioux Falls sells these berries at a premium but now I can pick them for free! Among this same bush were grape vines and deadly night shade.

They discovered numerous other “weeds” that surprisingly were edible and helpful! Amaranth is a common grain sold in health food stores, often marketed to those with gluten allergies. Ground cherries, related to tomatillos but are smaller and sweeter. Veronica’s son calls them “garden candy” and sound like a secret treasure! Yarrow helps clot blood with wounds and was used in the Middle Ages in tea to stop internal bleeding.

Explores your existing soil:

With regard to the new fruit trees, they had immediate suggestions but also wanted to take pictures and think through a unique plan that works for me. First, our soil quality is very poor in this area. When watering the ground, almost all runs down and isn’t absorbed into the soil. They suggested various water conservation techniques such as land shaping.

I planned to mow the ground and use wood mulch to improve soil quality. Unfortunately, the grasses present are very invasive and aggressive. Their suggestions included landscape barrier paper, cardboard and tilling the ground. They also recommended a chicken tractor, but I’d need to start immediately. As we don’t have a chicken tractor and no time to really assemble one, I thought a goat or two might work. They loved the idea. I wonder if I could rent one?!?

“Animals are great for ecosystems”

Veronica Shukla, Project Food Forest


Explores unique needs and vision:

Maybe you have a small yard or area to work with. Veronica admits she has a small yard herself. How many trees are needed for a food forest?  Only one!  Veronica explains, “And if you’re self-conscious about the name, we call it a tree guild”.

My fruit trees were planted in the spring and are doing fairly well.

3 Granny Smith Apple
4 Honey Crisp Apple
4 Kalle Red Clapps Pear
4 Red Delicious Apple
1 Duarte Plum
1 Satsuma Plum
2 Moorpark Apricot
1 Rival Apricot
2 Early Elberta Peach
2 Elegant Lady Peach
2 Rainier Cherry
2 Royal Ann Cherry
2 Bing Cherry

I want a cool path without barriers to harvest. I want a clear invitation for those wanting food that is free for the taking. I want foods that largely are recognizable to my family and those needing produce. And so they will get back to me in time for spring planting. Veronica says she will create details of specific types of plants, where and when to buy and plant them.

Furthermore, trees and shrubs planted now won’t likely yield much the first several years. PFF can create hybrid plans, especially in the first several years, to incorporate annuals such as tomatoes. There is far more direct sunlight the first few years and allows for this growth.


Where do I Start?

Project Food Forest is eager to develop a plan for your existing land. Whether you have a church, business, yard to donate, Project Food Forest is knowledgable, flexible, and great to work with. Education is a key component to this non-profit organization. They are here to teach regardless of your background regarding how to design a plot, maintain the forest and ensure a healthy productive crop. Database collected through their site to connect those with extra produce with those who need or want it. Contact them with your information or with questions.



Leave a Reply