Innovation Food Forest

The Innovation Food Forest is located next to Innovation Hall and the Johnson Center on the Fairfax campus. It is a garden designed using permaculture (permanent agriculture) and was created in 2013 by Elizabeth Torrens after she was inspired by the Permaculture Design Certification Course hosted on Mason’s campus in 2012. The Innovation Food Forest is an ecological model and an educational resource for the George Mason University campus.

The site has since then been managed by the Office of Sustainability, which hires staff to maintain it. The primary purpose of a food forest is to restore the natural cycles, biodiversity, and habitat of a forest (capturing and using energy, water, and other resources) while providing sustainable (perennial) food sources for people and wildlife.

Volunteer at the Food Forest:

The Food Forest’s success has been built upon the generous help and support of its volunteers. You can learn how to identify edible plants, how to compost your waste, and so much more.

All volunteers, students or otherwise, are required to register for a volunteer shift through Sign Up Genius. Follow the link to secure your spot before they fill up!

Due to the winter weather, there won’t be any volunteer shifts until late February or early March. However, there are some tours you can sign up for before then.

The volunteer shifts are available first come-first serve. There will also be occasional group tours that you can sign up for to help you get started. You can learn to assist us with transplanting, composting, mulching, plant identification and other garden maintenance. You do not need any prior experience. The garden staff, either Maria, Rhys, Alex or Doni will lead you through the tasks.

If you plan to volunteer we recommend wearing clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Also, please bring your own reusable water bottle to stay hydrated. The garden gets hot on sunny days, so dress in layers in case you need to cool off, wear sunscreen, or a hat.

You can watch our Intro Video to be prepared before you get started! 

Learn about composting YOUR waste on campus by watching our video:

How to Compost On-Campus

Experience it Any Time – Harvest at Any Time

Anyone is welcome to visit the site and take home some of the food, as long as they leave some to share with others and harvest responsibly (don’t pull the root or kill the plant, know it’s safe before eating). Use our Plant Inventory, museum-quality signs, or other trustworthy sources to identify the edible plant parts. Or join us during a tour and volunteer hours to learn from the experts.


The Innovation Food Forest is located behind Innovation Hall and near the south plaza (ground level entrance) of the Johnson Center. It is marked with a yellow star in this image below.

Learn more about the Innovation Food Forest with the following links:

Point of Contact

Email Doni at for questions, internship applications, requests for tours, etc.

Join our Online Community

Like our page on facebook

Like our account on Instagram @gmufoodforest

Become a member on GetConnected

Watch the video Introduction to the Innovation Food Forest 

About Permaculture

Permaculture strives to create a closed loop environment where the outputs for one process become the resources for another. In nature there is no such thing as “waste.” The concepts of permaculture are integrated into this space: earth care (taking care of, and restoring, the planet and its resources), people care (providing for food, community, and interactions with nature), and fair share (distributing excess resources). While this campus garden serves as a living lab for academic and research endeavors, it also inspires and engages community members, sparking their interest in becoming citizens invested in their immediate environment and the world.