Last week I did a crash tour of Florida to promote my new book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.
I didn’t go to Florida primarily to promote the book, however – I went down for a surprise party to celebrate my youngest sister’s engagement to a good man. Way to go, Jessica!
This is why my tour was all last-minute. For those of you that came to my three talks, thank you. I know it was last-minute notice, but man did we have fun! Next time I will try to plan ahead so everyone isn’t scrambling to make it.
The Great South Florida Food Forest Project – 12 Years In!
While in Ft. Lauderdale, I filmed a tour of the Great South Florida Food Forest Project, which I built with my Mom and Dad after moving back to North Florida in 2010.
This little food forest, which I tended on my trips to visit family, was a great inspiration and laboratory for the book I would eventually write.
You Can Plant a Florida Food Forest
The first edition of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest was a small booklet that inspired many food forest projects, including the beautiful food forest now located at Snyder Park in Ft. Lauderdale.
That project was due to the patience and diplomacy of one woman – Joan Starr – who faithfully pressed on in her vision until the food forest became a reality. When I first met her, she said “I built this food forest because you inspired me.”
I’ll tell you what – Joan inspires me! I’m just a backyard shoe-string gardener with big ideas and dreams, and it always amazes me to see people attack and conquer great things. I’ve moved many times and planted many fruit trees I never got to harvest, so seeing a long-term project in a town that I know and love gives me warm feelings. It’s a real legacy, and I am blessed to have contributed in a small part to something bigger that will be enjoyed by many families in years to come.
The new edition of the book is greatly expanded and illustrated, with 330 pages of beautiful pen and ink illustrations by 54 different artists, with lots of species profiles that fit into all the layers of a Florida food forest. It works for both North and South Florida and everything in between, with details on cultivation, planning and cold-hardiness.
Finally, I am also grateful to my parents for believing in me and letting me use their backyard as an experimental research station. That takes some guts, especially for my Dad, a man of order who liked his grass and nice landscaping. Mom was also a little reserved initially because her first inclination was to keep the grass out back for grandkids to play in. Over the years, however, both of them came to love the food forest and found that it was a place of joy for them and for their children and grandchildren.
You can do this! It’s fun, and Florida gardening doesn’t have to be hard. Mom barely has to work on this food forest anymore and it’s an endless supply of fruit and greens for the table, as well as a place for butterflies, bees, birds and flowers. Mangos, yams, coconuts, key limes, starfruit, Jamaica cherries, chocolate pudding fruit… the tropics are yours for the enjoying!