The Food Forest

Reviews & Comments

"One of the world's best permaculture DVDs to inspire school kids, adult learners, and policy makers that a sustainable way of living and land use is possible and enjoyable."
- David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept

"Wonderful family story and history of The Food Forest, and a way forward for our future well-being."
- Su Dennett, joint owner Melliodora farm and permaculture lecturer

"A must-see film"
Jo Vabolis, Indaily

"Against the challenges of peak oil, climate change and escalating population, the film articulates how permaculture can reimagine our cities for sustainability.

Design for Life is the inspiring new documentary tracing Graham and Annemarie Brookman’s transformation of a bare paddock north of Adelaide into The Food Forest, one of Australia’s iconic, certified organic permaculture farms and education centres. Beginning with their childhoods and travels among traditional cultures, Graham and Annemarie’s personal journeys provide context for their future work. Through interviews with David Holmgren, the film provides a rich illustration of how permaculture principles have been applied and continue to shape the farm’s evolution in the face of climate change and its growth as an education centre and supporter of local food systems. Against the challenges of peak oil, climate change and escalating population, the film closes by articulating how permaculture can reimagine our cities for sustainability. Engaging, beautifully shot, and complete with a virtual tour, Design for Life provides inspiration and practical advice for both aspiring and experienced gardeners and growers'.
- Joel Catchlove, Organic Gardener Magazine

'CAN permaculture save the planet? Farmland has given way to urban sprawl, new homes no longer have gardens, stormwater floods out to sea while we flush our toilets happily and watch our household waste be driven away in the back of the council garbage truck. Can we go on living like this? How can we make the changes necessary to save resources for future generations but still maintain the quality of living we’re used to?

Design for Life is the story of baby boomers Graham and Annemarie Brookman and their world travels in search of a way to create a comfortable and sophisticated life without destroying the environment.

Graham grew up in the Adelaide hills with parents who passed on their love of gardening. In Holland, Annemarie’s rural childhood lifestyle exposed her to the seasons and traditional farming methods. Their tertiary studies in horticulture and agricultural science built on these early foundations, leading to an increasing interest in environmentalism and sustainability.

A posting to Malaysia during the Vietnam War allowed Graham to observe holistic closed-cycle systems of farming – in drastic contrast to his experience of Australia’s agricultural business which focused on growing crops for export markets. Inspired, he travelled widely, researching land use in Canada, Denmark, and eventually Holland, where he met Annemarie. They continued the journey through the Mediterranean, Africa and America, photographing, filming and collecting ideas for sustainable food production techniques.

Eventually landing back in Adelaide, they searched for a property with the characteristics needed to begin building a new life and found the perfect spot near the Gawler River. The asking price was beyond their budget but their vision impressed the landowner enough to negotiate a special purchasing deal, and so the dream began to take shape.

Progress was initially slow, but then a chance reading of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren’s book Permaculture 1 provided the spark of inspiration they needed to design ‘The Food Forest’.

Permaculture struck Graham as ‘a beautiful package with a nice set of ethics behind it’. Sustainable growing and consuming became the couple’s main focus, following the three core values inherent in permaculture: care of the planet, care of the community, and taking personal responsibility for population and consumption. The Design for Life movie and virtual tour showcases the thriving, abundant land they’ve created.

Output from the The Food Forest farm grew rapidly, and now it produces a wide range of certified organic produce that is sold at the weekly Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market. Everything grown on the property is prepared on site, using cold room, drying and dehydrating equipment built simply on a small scale – to show visitors how they can replicate the ideas on their own property and maintain the machinery themselves. There’s also a cellar door, store, and learning centre housed in old stables.

News bulletins on climate change show us the consequences of lifestyles massively out of step with nature. Graham and Annemarie have noticed changes in the forest – temperature fluctuations are affecting the flowering cycles of fruit and nut trees, and since 2005 the low rainfall fails to soak the subsoil sufficiently.

The Brookmans are adapting to change by adjusting their agricultural methods, and Design for Life stresses the importance of spreading ideas via education until governments follow with the legislation needed to support sustainable farming practices. The Food Forest spreads the word by welcoming visitors to tours and weekend workshops, and hosting longer-term residents through the WWOOF scheme (Willing Workers on Organic Farms).

‘A society that no longer values good farmland and the training of the next generation of farmers has surely lost its way,’ is Graham’s final message in the film. Design for Life demonstrates that we can take responsibility for minimising our impact on the planet, and live a rich and rewarding life while we do it – a must see film'.
Jo Vabolis, Indaily

'Hello, Graham and family,

We received the DVD of "Design for Life" on Monday and borrowed a video projector to watch it at home.

We enjoyed it a lot. It was emotionally touching to see a vibrant center of sustainable living developed by one family.

We particularly liked that it showed how to grow as a family towards a lifestyle that is good for the health of the family, community and the planet.

For the last 4 years my wife and I have been searching for ways to make our lives more sustainable and healthier. We have reached the conclusion that we need to be able to grow at least part of our own food ourselves.

We want our 2 small sons to learn the skills and values that help them live in a world that comes after peak oil and continuing climate change. In the near future we plan to buy an old farm property and start to re-design it using the permaculture principles.

- Alo Joosepson, Permaculturist, Estonia

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