Hungry? Just head over to the park. Seattle's new food forest aims to be an edible wilderness. (Photo: Buena Vista Images/Getty Images)
Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.
“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.
The concept of a food forest certainly pushes the envelope on urban agriculture and is grounded in the concept of permaculture, which means it will be perennial and self-sustaining, like a forest is in the wild. Not only is this forest Seattle’s first large-scale permaculture project, but it’s also believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
“The concept means we consider the soils, companion plants, insects, bugs—everything will be mutually beneficial to each other,” says Harrison.
That the plan came together at all is remarkable on its own. What started as a group project for a permaculture design course ended up as a textbook example of community outreach gone right.
“Friends of the Food Forest undertook heroic outreach efforts to secure neighborhood support. The team mailed over 6,000 postcards in five different languages, tabled at events and fairs, and posted fliers,” writes Robert Mellinger for Crosscut.
Neighborhood input was so valued by the organizers, they even used translators to help Chinese residents have a voice in the planning.
So just who gets to harvest all that low-hanging fruit when the time comes?
“Anyone and everyone,” says Harrison. “There was major discussion about it. People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”
This article is printed here with permission. TakePart is the digital division of Participant Media, and focuses on providing content, products and services that inspire, empower, and ignite people to take daily action in making the world better. More from author Clare Leschin-Hoar.
If one or a few people pick all of the blueberries one season, or someone else sells some apples they picked, why not plant more acres and more acres and more acres?
Until people bought and barricaded all the land every forest was a food forest...and if you know a forest you can get into, it is still a food forest. Pine, cedar, willow, nuts, and all sorts of forest plants are deliciously edible and sustained humankind for thousands of years. Seattle has a nice urban idea but certainly NOT America's first food forest. Creator gave us that! We have in New England all kinds of orchards with berries, pears, apples, peaches, nuts, honey bees, etc, (not many exotics); a kind of fruit forest - though not usually free. Perhaps it should be called America's first Free Fruit Forest.
This is a fascinating trend. I applaud the visionaries behind this movement. Harold, Lead Pastor @ Life Center, Pasadena, CA
I suspect that is a real possibility Rosemary, but by far better to build this and know that the right people will enjoy. I would love to see this manifest everywhere, no one would need to then try to sell because FREE is available. What a wonderful world this will be!
I read somewhere... can't remember which state... doesn't allow the planting of fruit trees on public property ( schools etc ) because (they say ) it will bring pests. I don't like it when people act stupid.... fruit trees feed people. Rock on permiculture!
This is fascinating and I applaud the people of Seattle, who are once again leading the way :) I do, however, have a question, and this comes from the potential conflicts between 'scarcity' and 'abundance' models. How have they tackled the question of what to do if someone, for example, thinks they can take advantage of this 'abundance' by picking lots of apples and then selling them at a market? I am working with a colleague on an issue of a journal that will focus on 'open source thinking' and this question - is there a dark side to the concept - is one we have been reflecting on, along with thinking about its advantages. In other words, how does one sustain 'orderly' use of the fruit forest without imposing 'control'? Is there an equivalent to the creative commons approach that could apply to such abundance-oriented models and activities?
I think the world was like this.........but we have made it as it is now....it is great that we are trying to swing it back to it glories past...well done good job....all nations, institutions etc can replicate this to their own capacity....
On Jun 11, 2012 cfromke wrote:
How many acres? How many people?
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