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Coming Soon: A Forest You Can Eat

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Coming Soon: A Forest You Can Eat

Foraging a city block for free fruits, vegetables and nuts is a misdemeanor in most cities, but it will soon be encouraged in Seattle.

The Beacon Food Forest is a seven-acre plot in downtown Seattle that will hold enough food for the city’s families to stop by and take what they need — for free. Born from an idea posed by Glenn Herlihy and Jacqueline Cramer, the forest has been put together, piece by piece, with the assistance of donations from local groups. It’s expected to open in spring 2014.

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Complete with teaching spaces, a gathering plaza and wide-open spaces for families to congregate and enjoy the spoils of their day’s foraging, there are big plans for what is believed to be the first forest of its kind in the United States. Herlihy said they’ve also heard from towns in California and Oregon, interested in using his food forest idea for their own urban settings.

Seattle’s diverse culture, as well as the city’s affinity for the outdoors, has made the garden a perfect fit for an inner-city gathering place, says Chris Warren, Seattle native and meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

“I’d be surprised if there was a city somewhere other than Seattle that started this,” he said.

Trial-and-error will be a large part of the forest’s crops because of Seattle’s unique weather. They have a fairly good bead on what could be successful and what could fail in their rainy climate. While they know citrus plants would likely fail, Herlihy believes they have a chance to make other non-native plants grow and bear fruit.

“We can get a peach to grow here once in a while, so we might try that,” he said.

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When the forest is finished and ready for foragers, the success of the project will hinge on the honesty of its visitors. Responsibility will be encouraged for everyone who sets foot in the forest, and signs will be posted as reminders. They’ll be allowed to take some of the goods with them, but Herlihy said he’s hoping visitors will only take what can be used right away.

Regardless, the goal is to plant enough of each tree that they can have plenty of reserves, even if a crop is raided.

The process is having unintended additional positive steps: Through inter-agency cooperation, the door is open to create a sizable network of urban gardens in the city, Herlihy said.

When the forest opens, Herlihy hopes the lessons learned about food-growing and other cultures will trump the simple need for a place to get a free snack.

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Written by vaphc

June 24, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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