Seattle, WA Plans Development of Harvestable “Food Forest”

Seattle, WA, home to the Space Needle and Pike’s Place Market, is preparing to develop its largest-ever harvestable “food forest.”  The park will offer urbanites the chance to pick and consume fresh fruits and vegetables from the communal forest.

The idea to create a harvestable food forest originated from a group of environmentally-minded individuals interested in the concept of a communal garden that offered residents locally grown crops.  A proposal was made to city officials in 2010 to create the “food forest” in the neighborhood of Beacon Hill.  City officials have agreed to the idea and declared the year 2010 the “year of urban agriculture.”

This won’t be the first time the city has helped develop and maintain a community garden and nor is it the only city which has invested in the irony of urban agriculture.  Portland, OR, Pittsburgh, PA, and Syracuse, NY are three other cities with their own take on the concept of a “food forest.”  For example, in Syracuse, NY, vacant lots have been allocated for the use of vegetable gardens to be tended by teens, and Pittsburgh has its own food forest created two years ago that includes fruit-bearing berry bushes and pear trees.

The “food forest” will start out at two acres, but will expand to cover seven acres of land in the ethnically diverse Beacon Hill neighborhood.  The “food forest” will be located next to apartment complexes, a driving range, a lawn bowling club, a sports park, and a busy road.  Furthermore, the food forest will only be three miles away from Seattle’s downtown core.  The city has put aside $100,000 for the development of the first two acres.  Although the “food forest” has not been advertised by the city as becoming the largest one in the country, folks such as Greg Herlihy, who helped with the initial design of the park, believe it will be the largest in the nation.

The “food forest” will be different from an orchard in that it will consist of and rely on a variety of plants, trees, and vegetation, much like a forest eco-system.  Developers will plant fruit and nut tress on the upper level and  annuals, berry shrubs, and edible perennials on the lower levels.  Companion plants will also be added to the mix to help attract beneficial insects and manage pests.

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