Food Forests

Potential Funding Sources

Funding is often a barrier to the realization of innovative projects in the agricultural sector (Becker and Wall 2018; Cohen and Reynolds 2015; van Noordwijk et al. 2018). Fundraising can help to close this gap.

Fundraising is the “systematic analysis, planning, implementation and control of all activities of a non-profit organization aimed at procuring all required resources (money, goods and services) at the lowest possible cost through a consistent focus on the needs of the resource providers (private individuals, companies, foundations, public institutions).” (Urselmann 2018, p. 4)

Even if a non-governmental organization or other institutional partners support a non-profit project such as a food forest, it is important that the project does not rely on just one source of funding. Different sources of funding, such as donations, grants and crowdsourcing (by Brownie et al. 2014-2015) should form the basis of funding.

Kaufman and Bailkey (2000) studied 27 urban gardens from Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, 25 of which used funding. Most sponsors came from local or national government(s). Other sources included foundations, private individuals and fundraising events. The study emphasizes that although this variety of funding options appears to be a solution to overcoming the funding problem, the practice is different. The amount of time and energy invested in fundraising is high. This also explains why projects strive for self-sufficiency (Kaufman and Bailkey 2000, p. 64).

Possible Resource Providers

One of the basic questions asked in fundraising is “Who could provide the required resources in the form of money, goods and services?” (Urselmann 2018, p. 6). Four areas can be distinguished here: Private individuals, companies, foundations and public institutions.

Before you can identify the right resource providers, you need to be aware that “immaterial forms of consideration such as thanks, recognition and information” (Urselmann 2018, p. 7) are usually expected in return for funding. This means that donations “do not come for free” (ibid.). So what can be offered to resource providers in return at a reasonable price?

The following study provides an overview of various resource-providing actors. The analysis of four food forests in the USA, the Netherlands and Germany provides examples of the resources provided and the number of supporting actors (between 3 and 11).

Table 4: Number of resource providers in the forest gardens surveyed

TypeBeacon Food Forest (USA)Waldgarten Jerusalem (GER)Voedselbos Vlaardingen (NL)Wohnungsbaugesellschaft mbh Meiningen (GER)Total number of resource-providing actors
Private individualMoney, work, organization, own eventsVolunteersAnnual membership (10 €/a)Money and materials
Public institution31004

Private individuals can be a target group. The advantages here are potential long-term support and direct contacts (Urselmann 2018, p. 25). Private individuals can make one-off or repeated donations or membership fees, e.g. to an association. Association donations may not generate profit, but may only be spent for the purpose of maintaining the association. Other resources from private individuals can be donations in kind, such as plants or tools, or volunteer time, e.g. helping out as a Wwoofer [4]. The time and energy required to establish several individual private sponsors can be very high. Crowdfunding is one way of approaching several private individuals at the same time.

Companies often promote the establishment of forest gardens. They can be addressed particularly well if the company’s target group is interested in the project (Urselmann 2018, p. 39). This can also be interpreted broadly. For example, the Jerusalem Forest Garden approached IKEA as a sponsor because IKEA Sweden “has something to do with wood” (interview with Gabriele Krüger, 28.11.2019). The IKEA Foundation then became the main sponsor. But other companies are also suitable, especially for donations in kind. For example, optician Fielmann donated around 25 fruit trees for the Jerusalem Forest Garden and a bakery and cafeteria provided bread, cake and coffee for the volunteers during events at the Beacon Food Forest. Companies can also support educational work. For example, the company Lush sponsored salaries for course leaders and other material expenses for the development of the WirBauenZukunft food forest. At the Hof an den Teichen food forest, the first planting campaign was supported by a company in the form of woman- and manpower: As part of a company party, around 120 employees planted around 700 plants in just a few hours (detailed report here, in German). In return, the farm made its infrastructure available for the company party.

There are over 22,000 different foundations and funds in Germany alone and climate protection is a relevant topic in this area (Association of German Foundations). The internet portal (in German) of the Federal Association of German Foundations is a good place to start looking for suitable foundations. There are also regional directories of foundations in the federal states. As already mentioned, the IKEA Foundation was the main sponsor of the Jerusalem Food Forest, mainly to promote it as a meeting place. Here it is clear that the IKEA Foundation’s focus was on the social level of sustainability. WWF Germany (a foundation under civil law) represented the ecological level with its donation. The Beacon Food Forest is financially supported by two nature conservation foundations and an environmental education foundation. The Voedselbos Vlaardingen was financed by a regional environmental foundation and various funds. In summary, it can be said that foundations have great potential for financing forest gardens. In applications, it can be advantageous to emphasize the link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals or Planetary Health and to emphasize the holistic nature of a food forest as a solution to various sustainability problems.

Public institutions provide funding at an international level, for example with the European Union (EU), and at a national level with the federal government, federal states and local authorities. There are seven-year funding periods in the European Union. 2021-2027, this includes 401 billion euros for sustainable growth and natural resources (Directorate-General for Communication). It should be noted that applications for EU funding are very extensive and require sufficient lead time and good planning (Urselmann 2018, p. 461). Since a forest garden can have different priorities (e.g. environment, education or nutrition), the search for the right EU funding must be assigned to the priority (the LIFE and LEADER programs may be suitable). Apart from the funds, public institutions are the least represented resource providers in this study. The Beacon Food Forest was supported by a public institution (GROW) for the management of the money. The Jerusalem Forest Garden was supported by a regional ministry. In Germany, municipalities, municipal associations (including associations) and their own companies can apply for funding for the planning, creation and initial maintenance of food forests (Natural climate protection in communities, funding number 444, as of Dec 2023, in German). It should be checked with the local authority how medium-term maintenance can be clarified and how income can be generated for the association or company.

The Fundraiser

Another key question is: who carries out the fundraising? In other words, who identifies suitable tenders and writes the applications or sets up and manages crowdfunding? In addition to the possibility that the responsibility for financing the project lies with a person from the project, there is always the option of hiring a professional fundraiser. Another option is to train a person from the project in fundraising, for example through weekend workshops or seminars.

[4] WWOOF stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. Each country has its own website where people can register and then help on the farms. The international internet address is: Further information can be obtained here. In return, people receive accommodation and food. For these service donations, as with the income from production, the basic stability and infrastructure of the project is required. They are therefore not of interest for the initial phase.


Becker, Stefanie L.; Wall, Gregor von der (2018): Tracing regime influence on urban community gardening. How resource dependence causes barriers to garden longer term sustainability. In: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 35, S. 82–90. DOI: 10.1016/j.ufug.2018.08.003.

Brownie, James; Herman, Jared; Aleman, Jessica (2014-2015): Bringing the Food Forest into the City: Creating a Community Food Forest for Saratoga Springs. Environmental Studies Research Capstone, S. 40.

Cohen, Nevin; Reynolds, Kristin (2015): Resource needs for a socially just and sustainable urban agriculture system. Lessons from New York City. In: Renew. Agric. Food Syst. 30 (1), S. 103–114. DOI: 10.1017/S1742170514000210.

Kaufman, J. L.; Bailkey, M. (2000): Farming inside cities: Entrepreneurial urban agriculture in the United States. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Cambridge, MA.

Urselmann, Michael (2018): Fundraising. Professionelle Mittelbeschaffung für gemeinwohlorientierte Organisationen. 7th Edition. Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler. Accessible online via

van Noordwijk, Meine; Duguma, Lalisa A.; Dewi, Sonya; Leimona, Beria; Catacutan, Delia C.; Lusiana, Betha et al. (2018): SDG synergy between agriculture and forestry in the food, energy, water and income nexus. Reinventing agroforestry? In: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 34, S. 33–42. DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2018.09.003.