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The Sweet Pursuit

Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive


The Incredible Edible Forest

Apple tree 

You’ve heard of farm to table. Coming soon: park to table. This spring, in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle, seven acres of underused land will be transformed into the nation’s largest urban “food forest”—a community park planted with a cornucopia of produce that visitors are encouraged to harvest and eat, for free.

According to Crosscut reporter Robert Mellinger, the Beacon Food Forest will be “an urban oasis of public food” offering a variety of edibles: apples and blueberries, herbs and vegetables, chestnuts and walnuts, persimmons and Asian pears.

The sprawling project, while ambitious, draws strength from volunteer groups like Friends of the Beacon Food Forest and from simply letting nature take its course. Built around the concept of permaculture, it will be a perennial, self-sustaining landscape, much like a woodland ecosystem in the wild. Companion plants included for natural soil-enhancement and pest-control will help lower the amount of maintenance needed.

“The idea of planting perennials as part of a self-sustaining, holistic system is old hat to many accomplished gardeners,” writes Claire Thompson for Grist, and groups like San Francisco’s Guerrilla Grafters have already dazzled us with novel ways to promote urban agriculture. “But,” continues Thompson, “creating a system on public land that combines the concepts of urban farms, orchards, and natural forest, and depending on collaborative community effort to keep it going, represents uncharted territory for the now-flourishing urban-farming movement.”

In addition to contributing to your family picnic, the bounteous Beacon Food Forest will feature traditional amenities like playing fields, community gardens, a kids’ area, and public gathering spaces. Check out the full site plan below:

Beacon Food Forest plan 

Sources: Crosscut, Grist 

Image by Liz West, licensed under Creative Commons. 

Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.  

frances subbiondo
4/3/2012 12:42:44 PM

Jersey City (Hudson County NJ) has already installed one. http://www.slideshare.net/FrancesPlectranthus/permaculture-learning-garden


kelda miller
3/11/2012 12:01:05 AM

Yay for Utne for picking up this story! The scale of this park is new to the Puget Sound area, but there are other public Food Forests in Victoria and Syracuse, etc., and Edible Forest Gardens is an active non-profit in Olympia. As for the question about the next one: myself and the group Sustainable Tacoma Pierce are working on a design with MetroParks Tacoma to implement a Food Forest in Swan Creek Park in the next few years. I was one of the instructors at the Permaculture Course that hatched the Beacon Food Forest idea, and if anyone is interested in an upcoming permaculture class with myself and Jenny Pell (lead designer for BFF), you can find out more info here: http://shambalafarm.com


sondra barrett
3/5/2012 4:47:22 PM

What a great idea. Kudos to Seattle! Where's the next city to do the same?


linda eatenson
3/5/2012 3:59:43 PM

I remember when low-income families used to go to local parks every fall to gather pecans. Haven't seen that in years. This is such an obviously good idea we should implement it everywhere!