“The diligent farmer plants trees, of which he himself will never see the fruit.” ~Cicero
The answer to the somewhat tongue-in-cheek question posed by this blog’s title should be yes… food does indeed grow on trees. It also grows on other perennial plants[i]—and we should be growing more of these kinds of food plants, for our health and for the future of our planet.
The Old Testament informs us that “All flesh is grass,”[ii] and if we are what we eat, our current agriculture certainly affirms that statement. Our top four food crops—sugar cane, corn, wheat, and rice—are all grasses. (Turf grass actually is our nation’s top irrigated crop, at more than 40 million acres, but as humans can’t eat turf grass, I am excluding it from this list.)
Corn alone covers more than 70 million acres of the U.S., but corn is the “killer of continents.” The average acre of Iowa corn land, for example, loses more than 5 tons of topsoil to wind and water erosion every year.
Much of this erosion could be eliminated if we planted fruit- and nut-yielding tree crops, or even perennial versions of our favorite annual grain crops. Perennial grains also require less water, fertilizer, and herbicides.[iii]
The use of perennials and tree crops is an important aspect of permaculture. In his book Introduction to Permaculture, author Bill Mollison says, “Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments. The word itself is a contraction not only of permanent and agriculture but also of permanent culture, as cultures cannot survive for long without a sustainable agricultural base and land use ethic.”
Despite our current love of annual grains, humans evolved in trees long before we learned to walk upright on the plains.[iv] Fruits and nuts thus may be nature’s most appropriate and healthy food for us. Remember: The Garden of Eden was an orchard.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” ~Chinese Proverb
by Kyle Crider
Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corpo