Beacon Food Forest, USA
This grassroots project working in Seattle transforms publicly owned open land within a central urban park into a self-sustaining productive ecosystem. Starting up in 2009, the project took over a 7 acre plot in Jefferson Park, reinventing it from a patch of grass to a productive community-serving landscape. It is currently the world’s largest food forest on public land.
They operate on an ‘open harvest’ policy allowing anyone to come and harvest fruits and vegetables from the gardens. The only restriction on this is on the designated food bank and P-patch (community garden) plots. They have found this has led to near 100% of the produce being harvested, leading to less food waste. As well as feeding the community, part of their program is to educate. They hold workshops and classes on site teaching about ‘permaculture, agroforestry, ecology, food justice’ and anything else related to their mission. The program is operated through a team of volunteers, many of whom reside in South Seattle.
Their permaculture growth system incorporates 7 layers – a canopy of large fruit and nut trees, lower tree layer of dwarf fruit trees, the shrub layer of berries and currants, a herbaceous layer including comfreys and beets, the rhizosphere of root vegetables, the soil surface level with strawberries an ground cover, and the vertical layer of climber plants and vines. This agroforestry model produces a diverse and resilient edible landscape and allows the food forest to be self-sustaining. It requires less maintenance than a crop row style of productive landscape and it attracts pollinating species by offering them attractive habitats.
They hope to be a model for other food forests around the globe and they are serving as a good example of how to enhance open green spaces already existing within cities to be food productive.
For further information see the project’s own website.
Image: Beacon Food Forest has been transformed from a bare patch of grassy land to a flourishing productive landscape (source: Jonathan H Lee 2022)