Seattle’s urban fabric is about to have a new addition: a forest.
On a seven-acre plot in Beacon Hill, plans for a food forest are going ahead. The idea began in 2009 as a project for a permaculture class, and has since received funding for the design and procurement of seeds, and a land grant from Seattle Public Utilities.
So the question is: what is a food forest? Fair question. The concept of permaculture has been gradually gaining traction as issues of sustainability and green practice are pushed to the fore. And therein lies the idea for the food forest. A perennial, self-sustaining garden, operating as a public park and open to all. Blueberries in season? Feel free to harvest as many as you like. The same with anything else growing in the garden.
The idea isn’t necessarily new, but what is new is both the scale of the project, and the location of the park within the fabric of the city. It is this convenient location that raises a lot of questions amongst critics, primarily how to monitor collection and avoid abuse of the park by individuals. But then, the answer to that question could be the largest positive of the project. Those who harvest the most are those who need the most.
In response to the question of who is the food grown in the park available to, lead landscape architect Margarett Harrison responded: “Anyone and everyone. There was major discussion about it. People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”
And ultimately, that should be the mentality. Until the park actually opens and the first fruit is produced, no one can accurately predict the response. However, the community response simply to the development of the project, and the coverage the idea is getting, has already largely proven it a success. If further to that it can provide nutritional assistance to the underprivileged, well then, the negatives will be hard to find.
David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.