Edible Urban Forests

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There is a new trend underway in urban agriculture these days. It is called the edible forest garden and it is modeled on the forest ecosystem.

03-28-2012_edibleforest Urban agriculture is nothing new. Community gardens for example, have been around for decades. But forest gardens? Not so much, but there’s a new trend in urban agriculture these days and it is, as said, called the edible forest garden.

Modeled on the forest ecosystem, edible forest gardens are part of the sustainable gardening movement that has taken root (pun intended!) throughout the US and are being created all over the US.

It has to be said that forests gardens are also not entirely new even though to the great majority of us they do appear thus. In fact forest gardens have been around before, in Britain, for instance, with the common woodlands of old, where trees for wood and trees for fruit were planted side by side to produce both timber and fruit.

The more modern version of the forests garden, however, is a little newer in the “West” in that the understory here is used for growing other crops, and this system is based on forests gardens that are found in some parts of Asia.

We are, however, still a long way off in many parts of the industrialized world to understand the concept, especially as far as the planners in town and country go, despite the fact that some countries and some areas in those countries more than others, have taken up the lead.

In Seattle, USA, recently a new project of a forest garden has gone underway with the first harvest to be hoped for in 2013.

The goal of this food forest in Seattle is to provide affordable healthy food for families and community groups in the city and will be “mixed use”, including smaller community gardens as well as the forest, which will be planted with nut and fruit trees such as walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, pears, and plums in addition to huckleberries, salmonberries, and a variety of herbs. There are also plans for beehives to help with pollination.

Residents of the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle first introduced the idea of the “Beacon Food Forest” to city officials in 2010. The idea was approved and $100,000 was allocated for the first phase of the park, which is being built on land city owned land and is accessible to the residents of the numerous apartment complexes located nearby.

In Germany food growing has now begun in a number of cities in city parks with the express right for everyone to go and harvest the produce grown there. This certainly is a interesting development and one that we should encourage to be developed in other countries also.

As far as the UK is concerned I can just imagine the response from government officials which will be, as per usual, that it cannot be done in Britain and when one would ask the obvious “why not” question the answer, invariably, will be, of that we can be sure, that it is because Britain is different.

It is apparent that, despite all the great talk, for the suggestion was already a number of years back to convert many of the flower beds and other areas in some of the Royal Parks in London with Regents Park in the lead, to food growing, the political will is simply lacking.

The main problem, I would suggest, is that there are no backhanders in it for the politicians.

© 2012