Design for Life: the Food Forest DVD

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I desperately want to be Annemarie and Graham Brookman. Not right away – maybe about 30 years from now. By that time I want to be sitting back and recounting our successful adventure of transforming our land from an exposed and rocky ridge into a kick-ass permaculture farm. Just like the Brookmans.

Annemarie and Graham Brookman are two of our heroes. 25 years ago they took a scruffy patch of land with scanty rainfall and, with time, good design and a heap of gumption, turned it into a viable permaculture farm that feeds their family and the community beyond.


Aerial view of the Gawler Food Forest

Design for Life: the Food Forest story is a self-published DVD that the Brookmans have made about their amazing journey of establishing The Food Forest – a vibrant organic small-holding in Gawler, South Australia. It shows why the Food Forest is perhaps the best example of a permaculture farm in Australia today.  A big call, but a fair one. For so many reasons.

I suppose what tickles me most about the story behind this documentary is that the Food Forest wasn’t established on lush acres of prime country – far from it. And yet, the Food Forest today looks like some sort of oasis. It’s so encouraging to see what good permaculture design (and directed energy) can do.

The Brookmans have designed and planted a livelihood as well as raise a family at the Food Forest, and today continue to run the farm as a going concern. Harvests include perennial crops of nuts and fruit, as well as a wide variety of vegetables and herbs that they sell at farmers markets and other outlets. This is permaculture, for real. And it’s not rocket science, just good design.

I’d been dying to have a good look at this documentary – i saw a bit of it when it screened at APC10 but my two-year old wasn’t in the mood, sadly. I ordered it on the Brookman’s website and the DVD arrived in the mail with a little note from Annemarie explaining that the package’s (very slight) lateness was due to her being caught up in the fig harvest. Nice one.

Food Forest DVD contents and extras

In addition to the documentary, this DVD also includes a virtual tour of the Food Forest which is a hugely educational extra – the tour includes an explanation of just about everything on the property; water treatment, energy efficiency, orchard and polyculture plantings, integrated animal systems and agro-forestry. Whew.

What is also wonderful about the doco is that it traces Annemarie and Graham’s path from their years prior to the Food Forest project, and offers insight into a couple of lives that have truly evolved from a place of great intentions to a family who truly walks the walk. It’s lovely to see. And they’re still doing it! It makes me sleep easier to know this kind of future is possible.

>> You can get yourself a copy of Design for Life: The Food Forest story here.

More bits about the Food Forest in Gawler:

More bits about food forests in general:

See the comments

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9 responses to “Design for Life: the Food Forest DVD

  1. Hello people
    after romancing my one Feijoa, how do I make ‘babies’ from it? I have 1 only small tree around 3′ high with long single stem branches that would make great espelliar but I want individual trees.. I don’t want to waste the branches..but I would prefer to cut back to make tree more bushy.suggestions on propogating/grafting etc please
    Southport Gold Coast location

  2. I attended Annemarie and Graham Brookman’s “Introduction to Permaculture” course yesterday. The course is located at their 15-acre permaculture farm, the “Food Forest”, near Gawler, South Australia. I had a wow of a time.

    Annemarie and Graham are extremely knowledgable and personable. Graham has a wicked since of humour and a quirky enthusiasm – often getting carried away with his impersonations and paraphrases.

    What they bring to bear is a successful and sustainable farm. What really stuck out to me was their willingness to adapt. They have learnt many lessons over the years and have made changes to their approach where necessary.

    They have recently started experimenting with Jujube. Not because it is a trend and they want to cash in on it, but because it suits their property and will likely prove hardy as the climate continues to change. That said, it will be a lucrative market. As Graham explained in one of the workshops, not value-adding has been of huge detriment to Australia’s farming complex. We tend to dig it and grow it, then ship it. At mere dollars a tonne.

    Apparently the Brookman’s have received some criticism from permaculture purists as to how they designed their property. You won’t find your conventional, multi-layered food forests or mandala beds there. Orchards are orchards and the market garden is planted in rows. Why? Efficiency. Why make it harder than it needs to be? It is an operational commercial farm after all. There is no doubt about the biodiversity at the property. Species of plants are in the hundreds and everything has a place. The presence of abundant wildlife (sans foxes and rabbits) prove this.

    I haven’t said much about the course in this brief review because the Brookman’s story says it all. They have applied the techniques they preach and the property shows that they work. The course was informative, inspiring and I took a lot from it. I am keen to do the Permaculture Design Course next year to help me with designing my own property.

    One important point that I took away with me was not to put all your eggs in one basket. That seems to be at the heart of Annemarie and Graham Brookman’s success. Listen to the environment and tweak your approach and be prepared for what might come your way. Because of this they don’t only enjoy a yield but a veritable surplus.

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