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Back Nine Food Forest by The Groundskeepers

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Anywhere a golf course exists in the world, a food forest awaits. Bring the community together by converting one fairway to food!



The modern game of golf originated in 15th century Scotland.  Common attributes are acres of rolling hills, tree lined fareways and 9 or 18 hole course layouts.  These courses are often located in areas of dense human population for accessability, a feature that makes them an ideal candidate for a slight repurposing.

If each course would donate one hole for a food forest, localized fresh food would be seasonally available, easily obtainable, and could be a mainstay for local food banks, pantries while reducing the carbon footprint and maintenance requirements throughout the world.  This is a local project that has global impacts.

Today, there are over 35,000 golf courses throughout the word and each has unique characteristics, terrain, and climate zones supporting thousands of species of grasses, trees and plants.  By donating one hole of these courses to employ permaculture techniques and develop self-sustaining food forests, each community would benefit from a cooperative effort to feed those in need while protecting a small part of the local environment for birds, bees, plants and humans. 

A key feature of this project is the ability to showcase a local solution that has global reach.  If a handful of courses do this, word would spread, partnerships would form, and best practices would be shared.  People would be fed.  Wildlife sanctuaries would form.  Golfers, non profits, gardeners, schools, corporate material donors, spouses and children will come together to help, harvest and be connected.

It will cost the average golfer 3 or 4 strokes off thier game - a small price for a large ecological impact.  Corporate sponsors will have an outlet to really make a positive impact rather than greenwashing a solution that does not. 

This proposal is to develop a Practice Guide and Management Plan so that any golf course anywhere can apply this Project Plan to their situation, learn about permaculture and how to organize a solution within their own community.


Key actor

Grassroots neighborhood organizations

What actions do you propose?

Th Groundskeepers propose to:

  • Develop the criteria for selecting ideal golf courses based on community support, geographical relation to an existing food desert or population center, and site suitability
  • Identify one potential food forest candidate
  • Organize the appropriate groups and individuals locally
  • Plan the cost, scope, schedule, risk management and communications specific to the first golf course
  • Generalize a 'hot to' guide with sample plans, timelines and templates
  • Promote the idea through project status updates, social media support and news outlets
  • Look for corporate or association sponsors to raise funds for promotional materials and supporting lectures through grants or donations
  • Make these materials free for distribution to other local communities wanting to take local action.

Who will take these actions?

Examples of larger scale food forests are in the works in may areas.  The 7-acre Beacon Food Forest  in Seattle WA, USA is a model of community involvement, public land reuse and permaculture design that began as a grassroots community effort.

The first step would be to develop a standard template, process and design plan and model community templates specifically for the organization and management of developing the food forest.

The proposed action is to organize local garden clubs, tilth organizations and the local owner/operators of public/private golf courses with food bank and charity organizations.  This unlikely alliance would then locally convert one 2-10 acre section of the golf course into a food forest.  Local nurseries, building material supply stores and construction companies would be encouraged to donate in-kind labor or materials and surrounding neighborhoods could volunteer.

Where will these actions be taken?

If this proposal garners sufficient intrest and input to pursue, the Groundskeepers will start by developing a plan template to organize, promote, design and construct one food forest in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S.

Once completed, this first Back Nine Food Forest would be heavily promoted in local and national media and through golf course associations.  The next dozen courses would be specifically chosen to develop a permaculture food forest in seperate and distinct climate zones in the world.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Business as usual in golf course management is typically environmentally unsound.  Water usage, chemicals and fertilizers are common insults along with the amount of petroleum necessary to mow, groom and take care of the course.

The goal would be to reduce emissions by 10% by using one prominent fareway and converting it to a food forest.  In addition, this area would produce many tons of food for local distribution reducing the supply chain necessary to get fresh food to local communities.

Labor will be supplied by volunteers, clubs, schools, churches and other communty organizations to reduce power tool landscaping, water management, and emissions.

The forest will provide 100-250% more carbon sequestration per acre than grass monocultures in the traditional golf course.


What are other key benefits?

Other Key benefits are:

  • Local food
  • Education opportunities
  • labor opportunities for unemployed residents


What are the proposal’s costs?

The first forest would be sponsored locally and funded by local donations.  The proposed plan and guide would cost approximately $25,000 to produce and the organiztion would seek donations and grants to expand accessability to the guide.

Time line

It is anticipated that the first site would be secured to begin food forest conversion in 2014.  This allows 2013 to hold design roundables and to develop the plan book for reuse by any community considering development on their own local course or courses.

Related proposals

None noted.


To be developed.