18060Seattle's 'Beacon Food Forest' Opens This Summer
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SEATTLE’S URBAN FOOD FOREST IS OPEN FOR FORAGING
By Ben Schiller
June 11, 2013
If you’re in Seattle, you can soon skip the farmer’s market. The Beacon
Food Forest will grow plums, apples, walnuts, berries, vegetables, and
herbs -- all free for the taking.
There’s free food everywhere, if you know where to look. Falling Fruit,
which maps publicly available produce in several countries, lists 554
edible varieties (mostly plants) in 570,000 locations. It’s mostly stuff
that currently goes to waste, like fruit that drops into streets, only
to get mashed into concrete.
Most of the locations on Falling Fruit’s map are single trees (including
some on private property, where asking the owner is advised) or small
community spaces. But foraging is gaining scale all the time. Several
places are planting dedicated forests for public use.
Look at Seattle’s embryonic Beacon Food Forest. Set to become the
nation’s largest forageable space, it will cover seven acres within city
limits, offering everything from plum, apple, and walnut trees, to berry
bushes, herbs and vegetables. The goal is to recreate the ecosystem of a
real forest with food-bearing varieties at different heights.
The community group behind the project has planted about 35 trees so
far, and also completed a lot of landscaping and irrigation work,
according to Glenn Herlihy, one of the creators. He expects the space to
open later this summer, and to start producing food next year, beginning
with herbs, vegetables, and annuals.
The forest will include a teaching space, conventional community
gardening plots, a barbecue spot, and recreational areas. Since it’s a
community project, it has to cater to many groups.
Herlihy hopes visitors will practice "ethical harvesting"--taking what
they need, or what they can eat right away. But for those feeling
greedy, there will be a "thieves garden" containing lower-grade stuff.
"We also plan to have a lot of people around, so you’re not going to
feel comfortable taking a lot of stuff," he adds.
Beacon is using land donated by Seattle Public Utilities, and has a
$100,000 grant from the city. Herlihy says the forest could eventually
produce "quite a bit of food," and he hopes it will be a place where the
community can come together.
"People are learning where they can find food about the place," he says,
referring to foraging in general. "That’s a good thing. Better that than
it going to waste."
Falling Fruit’s founders, Caleb Phillips and Ethan Welty, see foraging
as more than just another source of food. "Foraging in the 21st century
is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained
sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food," they
say, at their website.
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