Upstart food forests — designed landscapes incorporating perennial and woody plants that produce food — are popping up around the US, inspired no doubt by Seattle’s new Beacon Hill Food Forest as well as successful older sites including Mercy Emily Edible Park on 18 vacant lots in Philadelphia and Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville, NC.
In 2013, a public food forest was established in Johnson City, TN. Others were begun or are scheduled to begin still this year in Basalt, CO, Austin, TX, and Tacoma, WA. Future food forests have been proposed for Greensboro, NC, Davenport, IA, Lincoln, NE, and Painter, VA.
Cincinnati, OH, is planning to incorporate a public edible food forest into its multi-year development of a 28-mile greenway along the Ohio River. Encinitas, CA, hopes to add food islands to existing public parks. The Wetherby Edible Forest Maze in Iowa City, IA will be expanded.
Though challenges exist and their future may be uncertain, it seems that American citizens and organizations, and even some government agencies, are fired up about growing perennial edibles in public areas. Assuming this trend continues, could it change the way we view our public landscapes and their capacity to provide each of us with at least an occasional free, fresh-picked snack?