Urban Food Forests in Seattle

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Seattle, Washington is reported to be one of the top ten green cities in the United States. And, it seems now that Seattle is taking their eco-friendly initiative a step further by planting the largest urban food forest on public land in the U.S.

Just a few miles from downtown Seattle there’s a diverse neighborhood called Beacon Hill, which is known for its thriving African, Chinese, Filipino, and Vietnamese communities. It’s there that the Friends of Beacon Food Forest Community group has forged a food forest project. On a seven-acre plot acquired from the Seattle Public Utilities, edible greenery from around the world will be planted in order for “people of all ages and ethnicities to congregate and learn together.”

What are Urban Food Forests?

A food forest is inspired by the natural ecosystem found within woods. There are seven different types of plants that make up different layers and levels within this ecosystem: large trees, dwarf trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, root vegetables, soil surface plants, and vertical plants (vines). In food forests, edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals are used in a similar ecosystem. Certain plants are used to benefit the soil others are used to attract pest-killing bugs. All these factors come together to create a garden that “produces high harvests with little maintenance.”

Different Urban Food Forests Around the World

There are similar food forest projects around the world. For instance, the Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard is the first of it’s kind in Toronto and produces apples, plums, and cherries. The London Orchard Project has planted 57 community orchards throughout London since January 2009. They have planted fruits like pears, peaches, and apricots. And the Philadelphia Orchard Project plants kiwis, grapes, figs, and blackberries in vacant lots, schoolyards, and community gardens.

Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest Community

The Beacon Food Forest Community group has received $100,000 from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy and $20,000 from the Department of Neighborhoods for their project. They plan on using that money to start on a small testing zone (1.75 acres). If all goes well they’ll plant more. They plan to have an edible arboretum (fruits from around the world), a berry patch, a nut grove, a community garden (where families can lease plots and grow their own food), a kids’ area, and a beekeeper. They’ll also have community outreach programs, “teaching pickling, preserving, and plant identification.”

Click here to learn more about the Beacon Food Forest project or here to learn about urban food forestry.