Posts exaggerate size of Netherlands 'food forest' which covers six acres, not 1,100 acres

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A meme that has been shared thousands of times in Zambia claims that a “food forest” in the Netherlands produces 5,000 tons of fruit and nuts every year on a plot of 1,100 acres. This is misleading; while the pictures showing Foodforest Ketelbroek are real, the meme introduces a number of inaccuracies about the forest’s size and the amount of food it produces, according to one of the project’s founders.

The meme was published in a Facebook post on February 6, 2023, and has been shared more than 19,000 times.

“This 1,100 acres Food Forest in Holland has over 80 species of tree, shrub, and herbaceous plants. It produces 5,000 tons of fruit and nuts annually and supports a wide variety of wildlife, including beavers, weasels, snakes and over 30 species of breeding birds,” reads the text in the meme.

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

The meme comprises two pictures, one from 2009 when the forest was still in its infancy and another purportedly from 2022 showing the same plot from above, fully grown.

However, as one Facebook user commented, the claimed size of the food forest brought into question "the validity of the entire post”.

Screenshot of comments under the misleading Facebook post

Other posts on Facebook (here and here) claimed the forest is much smaller at 1.1 acres.

A food forest, or a forest garden, is a diverse planting of edible plants that simulates the ecosystems found in nature.

However, both figures attributed to Foodforest Ketelbroek are false, as are other aspects mentioned in the meme.

Foodforest Ketelbroek

AFP Fact Check contacted Wouter van Eck, one of the pioneers of the Dutch food forest movement who co-founded the Foodforest Ketelbroek. He said the movement did not produce this meme.

“The size of Food Forest Ketelbroek is 2.42 hectares — roughly six acres,” said Van Eck.

Aerial photo of Foodforest Ketelbroek in 2022 shared by Wouter Van Eck

The meme understates the number of different plant species. The thicket is home to around 600 species of plants, not 80 as claimed.

Among the plants growing at Ketelbroek are pecan, apple, plum, kaki, ramsons, nashi, quince, hawthorn, udo, and bamboo, said Van Eck.

He also estimated that at this "young stage” of their project, Ketelbroek provides approximately seven tons of produce a year.

A screenshot from Wouter van Eck’s 2021 presentation showing some of the forest’s produce

“We don't weigh parts of the harvest, this goes lumpsum to our customers, but that number of 5,000 tons for sure is completely false,” Van Eck told AFP Fact Check.

The 2009 image used in the meme shows what Ketelbroek looked like when the team first broke ground.

A screenshot from a presentation in 2021 by Wouter Van Eck

However, the “2022” image, while it does show Ketelbroek, is older than claimed. It was published on Facebook two years earlier on a page dedicated to The Netherlands Food Forestry Foundation, also co-founded by Van Eck.

A screenshot of the Facebook post

What’s accurate

The meme does get some details correct, such as the wildlife that the forest supports: mammals including weasels, beavers, and badgers; amphibians (frogs and toads); reptiles (grass snakes); and insects (hoverflies, nocturnal butterflies, bumblebees and ground beetles, to name a few).

Van Eck also confirmed the number of bird species found at Ketelbroek is accurate. “This is the most correct figure! Researchers in 2016 found 23 species and in 2021, 30 species.”

He said the list includes birds like the common chiffchaff, Eurasian blackbird, greater whitethroat, song thrush, white stork and hawfinch.