Walking around in a peach orchard the other day I couldn’t help but wonder why there weren’t more fruit trees planted everywhere instead of regular bushes? My friend replied that maybe the upkeep was too difficult. Is that it? All I know is living in Portland, Oregon has been inspirational as I watch the sidewalk strips, which used to be largely unused grassy patches, fill up with gardens. Now, Seattle, Washington is implementing something completely revolutionary along these same lines – the country’s first public food forest!
Can you imagine taking a walk through the park on a sunny afternoon and not having to pack a lunch, but rather simply reach up and pull down a pear, a fig and maybe a few walnuts to munch? This is exactly what is going to occur in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood covering approximately seven acres of land. The Food Forest is the first of the city’s urban garden oasis visions. By dedicating the park to the growth of fruit trees, vegetables and herb plants, those who wander through will be able to pick food free for the taking.
Why hasn’t anyone done this before? Well, it has been done, sort of, but not like this. During World War II time, 22 million Americans participated in growing food for the country producing over 40% of the food supply. In Portland, Oregon, urban gardens are popping up all over in order to feed the less fortunate with the goal to eradicate hunger in one generation. Courses are offered at places like Portland State University to train students in the art of urban farming. But in Seattle the food forest is so far, completely unique.
The idea of the Seattle food forest is that it will be set up as a permaculture, meaning, it will be self-sustaining, like any forest – so no upkeep is required. This plan will require consideration of all the companion plants added to the forest along with needed insects and the proper soil. They are planning to break ground on this project this summer, which is exciting for anyone who lives near by. The food forest will be the first of its kind in a park and in the nation. Just imagine, free persimmons, cherries, hazelnuts, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pears, apples, greens and more!
Friends of the Forest was over the community outreach program, getting information out to the surrounding neighbors for support, supplying flyers in multiple languages. The effort to make this thing happen has been moving. People raised questions like “what if someone takes all the blueberries?” to which the beautiful answer was given – “maybe that someone needed the blueberries.” Park planners say: “We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”
Seattle pioneers the way on the nations first public food forest. We can all hope that this is just the beginning of amazing developments like this across the country. As far as the goal to eradicate hunger, as proposed by Portland’s Urban Farming, will become a reality in a very short period of time if we can do this. There is no reason why Portland can’t do this, along with many cities in California who maintain great growing seasons. Some cities in the south as well as Hawaii have a great capacity to grow free food. As we are now seeing through projects like Saharaforest.org, that lush green forests can be grown anywhere with the proper knowledge. May all be fed.
Written by: Stasia Bliss