A Growing Trend in the U.S.: Food Forests

A Growing Trend in the U.S.: Food Forests
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Mound-forming alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) tolerate a range of soil and climate conditions and produce small fruits intermittently throughout the growing season.

Upstart food forests — designed landscapes incorporating perennial and woody plants that produce food — are popping up around the US, inspired no doubt by Seattle’s new Beacon Hill Food Forest as well as successful older sites including Mercy Emily Edible Park on 18 vacant lots in Philadelphia and Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville, NC.

In 2013, a public food forest was established in Johnson City, TN. Others were begun or are scheduled to begin still this year in Basalt, CO, Austin, TX, and Tacoma, WA. Future food forests have been proposed for Greensboro, NC, Davenport, IA, Lincoln, NE, and Painter, VA.

Perennial Egyptian walking onions (Allium cepa) develop clusters of bulbs at the tops of their stems, which gradually prompt them to lean down to the ground and root, producing a new clump of stems.

Cincinnati, OH, is planning to incorporate a public edible food forest into its multi-year development of a 28-mile greenway along the Ohio River. Encinitas, CA, hopes to add food islands to existing public parks. The Wetherby Edible Forest Maze in Iowa City, IA will be expanded.

In Kauai, HI, where there is already one public food forest, the state legislature is considering a bill based on a 15-year-old girl’s vision to create a community food forest program.

Though challenges exist and their future may be uncertain, it seems that American citizens and organizations, and even some government agencies, are fired up about growing perennial edibles in public areas. Assuming this trend continues, could it change the way we view our public landscapes and their capacity to provide each of us with at least an occasional free, fresh-picked snack?

Bush cherries (Prunus tomentosa) produce small, semi-sour fruits that attract berry-loving birds and also humans who like to graze as they wander.

Posted by

Evelyn Hadden
on July 16, 2014 at 2:01 am, in the category Eat This, What’s Happening.


    • John
    • 1st January 1970

    I really like the idea of food forests and hope the idea continues to catch on. There doesn’t seem to be much of a downside to utilizing otherwise wasted space to grow some locally acclimated fruits and veggies.

    • Laura Bell
    • 10th February 1978

    I’ve always liked this idea – why not put public space to use growing food?

    • anne
    • 27th June 1978

    I’m all for this idea. Are they maintained by volunteers?

    • Benjamin Vogt
    • 22nd January 1989

    Thanks for the Lincoln mention! There will also be a pollinator component featuring native plants.

    • admin
    • 11th April 2002

    It makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

    • CindyP
    • 27th September 2002

    I use Alpine strawberries as a form of ground cover, bird attractor, and if I’m lucky get some for myself. They grow like weeds and look good most of the season. Can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t work in a public park, but someone is going to have to be out there weeding a few times a year. Right now all the cities have to do is mow the lawn, I’m wondering if the weeding will be done by volunteers? I can’t imagine that any city has the budget to pay it’s employees to weed.

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