We asked: why can't there be an abundance of fruit, free for picking all around town? Why can't there be free veggies, flowers, herbs and medicine growing out of every nook and cranny... like folks do elsewhere in the world?
A group of friends came together in the winter of 2011 to discuss the possibilities and potential of forests of free food for everyone in our neighborhood and beyond. We envisioned a project that could...
- create an edible, delicious and nutritious public landscape bursting with free food
- build and remediate tired city soil
- increase biodiversity and pollinator habitat
- create community through design, maintenance, and harvest
- work with local youth and elders throughout the process
- and educate and empower folks along the way!
It started to sound like a good idea.
Beyond transforming our common spaces, we're hoping to start discussions about local food and economies. Having dozens of demonstration forest gardens around town will bring awareness, energy and enthusiasm about permaculture, community gardens and food systems out of folk's private backyards, and into the spaces we share.
The money we raise will be primarily for plants, ordered from local nurseries, as well as printing signs, buying salvaged lumber, compost, gardening tools, and doing soil tests.
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Project Goals for Fall 2012 - Spring 2013
Transform much of downtown Northampton's empty spaces into common places, where fruit trees, perennial polycultures, and public veggie, flower, culinary and medicinal herb beds are the norm!
Bike Path Connector - community vineyard, fruit trees, raised beds
For our pilot project, we picked the 700 foot long Bike Path Connector of the Manhan Rail Trail. It connects Conz St to Pleasant St, and is the backyard of 2 large apartment buildings.
This fall, using funds we raise, we'll be planting a delicious line up of Concord grapes, heirloom apples and plums, climbing roses, chestnut trees, Asian pears, hazelnuts, culinary and medicinal herbs, and raised beds for annual veggies and flowers. We're putting in signs that encourage folks to use the garden spaces, how to identify the abundant edible wild greens along the bike path... and to help themselves to the food!
Pulaski Park - demo forest garden, fruit trees, raised beds
We're also putting in a educational forest garden in Pulaski Park, a high profile opportunity to bring the local food and permaculture movements out of folks' backyards, and into the public eye!
Garden & Fruit Tree 'Islands' Downtown
If our fundraising is successful, we'll be so lucky as to plant over 50 fruit trees in the countless grass patches (medians, parking lots, etc.) around town. They'll have signs that identify them and encourage folks to eat, and companion plants beneath them -- including raised beds. This will also be an good opportunity to demonstrate successful fruit tree polycultures that could be grown in many urban settings. We want to open up the sandbox of permaculture to the larger community and inspire both backyard and public forest gardens.
Inspired by the "Incredible, Edible Todmorden", a recently transformed town in the UK, we are looking forward to folks planting, tending, and harvesting from these mini garden plots, all for free. Below is one inspirational TED talk about this town that got us thinking.
Risks and challenges
Many of the areas we'd love to transform into gardens have soil that has been poisoned, salted, crushed, abused and neglected over the years. We are doing soil tests to ensure that we won't be putting in plants in places where they could uptake pollutants. We are excited to remediate some areas and make them healthy again using sunflowers and mushroom straw!
We also are very conscious of the high profile nature of this project. We want the gardens and information to be accessible to all, with high quality, thoughtful designs - especially since we'll be relating with various departments of the city. As a group, we are confident we possess the design, communication and practical skills to pull this off sucessfully.
We're also aware that maintenance, especially during the hot summer months, will be very important to protect the investment of the plants, and of course, their lives! We're setting up volunteer maintenance teams to tackle specific areas, so everyone has manageable tasks. We're connecting with local youth and youth organizations to help with this, and, depending on what funding we can generate later in the year, pay for their time while offering skills and education for the volunteers.
- (30 days)