Plants For A Future (PFAF) is an online free-to-use information database and associated website for those interested in edible and useful plants. Originally focused on plants suitable for temperate regions, it has now been extended to include many of the more important tropical and sub-tropical edible and useful plants. The PFAF website (https://pfaf.org) enables access to powerful search facilities, and in all the database now contains information on over 8000 plants.
These resources are maintained by a UK registered charitable company. The objectives of the PFAF charity are ‘to advance the education of the public by the promotion of all aspects of ecologically sustainable vegan-organic horticulture and agriculture with an emphasis on tree, shrub and other perennial species; and the undertaking of research into such horticulture and agriculture, and dissemination of the results of such research.’
The charity was originally set up by Ken Fern and his wife Addy to support their work on ‘The Field’ their experimental site in Cornwall, where from 1989 they carried out research and collected information on 1,500 species of edible and otherwise useful plants suitable for growing outdoors in a temperate climate. Subsequently Ken Fern added to the database through desk and online research.
Before 2005, the Cornwall site was supported by a group of vegan activists and the group raised money to purchase a second site in North Devon with the aim of establishing an ecovillage. Unfortunately neither of the PFAF sites: Cornwall and North Devon, were able to obtain planning permission for building or living on the sites. It was decided to sell the North Devon site, and in 2008 the PFAF charity appointed a new set of Trustees and took over responsibility for supporting and maintaining the plants information database. Since then PFAF has employed a database developer/ administrator on a rolling contract basis. The charity’s office base is in Dawlish, Devon.
Since 2008 the Fern family have continued to manage their Cornwall research site, and also now offer their own version of the plants database (see http://plantsforafuture.theferns.info/ ) Therefore although the Trustees of the PFAF charity continue to maintain contact with the Ferns, they have no operational links with what is now termed PFAF-Cornwall.
In recent years PFAF has worked on extending and aligning the plants database with initiatives to promote and support ‘carbon sequestration’ and for designing ‘carbon farming’ systems and ‘food forests’: agro-ecosystems of perennial plants. The particular focus is on a subset of 1300+ plants that feature in the species matrices in two important reference books: The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security by Eric Toensmeier and Edible Forest Gardens: Ecological Design and Practice for Temperate Climate Permaculture by Dave Jacke.