Washington state, a longtime leader in sustainable culture, has plans to add a seven acre urban food forest right in the middle of Seattle. This community food forest, by the time it is complete, will be the largest in the U.S. and will, hopefully, be an inspiration for urban areas worldwide.
The creative team behind the food forest, which was first designed in 2009 for a permaculture class final, hopes that the project can give members of the working-class neighborhoods in inner Seattle a chance to connect with nature and to forage for nutrient-rich foods. The park, which will be called the Beacon Food Forest, will be filled with many varieties of fruit-bearing perennials, including apples, pears, plums, grapes and assorted berries.
The hope is that the food garden will serve as a meeting place for the wide variety of cultures and ethnicities that exist in metropolitan Seattle. According to the team, “[t]here’s Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Africans in the area. The Beacon Food Forest is a place where all ages and ethnicities can meet.”
After reaching out to the community and receiving tremendous support, project leader Glenn Herlihy and his team received a $22,000 grant and were able to hire a certified designer to begin making the food forest a reality. The team also received a generous seven-acre land donation from Seattle Public Utilities and $100,000 in seed money to begin the first phase of planting.
For the first phase of the Beacon Food Forest, Herlihy’s team will plant a 1.75 acre area which will serve as a test run for the project. If, after a few years time, the city of Seattle deems the park to be successful, the rest of the land will be developed and additional funding provided.
Of course, one of the first questions to arise is how the food forest will be protected from those who want to take more than their fair share or even harm the plants and vandalize the land. Herlihy’s team has not yet found an answer to this predicament, but hopes that, if such an abundance of seeds are planted to provide enough produce for everyone, the community will work together to nurture and protect their new food source.
Photo courtesy of Glenn Herlihy