Seven acres of land in the heart of Seattle, just 2.5 miles from downtown, are being transformed into foraging grounds for visitors to pick their own fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, roots and more.
Deemed the Beacon Food Forest, the free and open-to-the-public garden will emulate a forest ecosystem. Soon to be the largest food forest on public lands (donated by the Seattle Public Utilities) in the United States, the project aims to educate people, foster cultural exchange and offer a new form of recreation. Other benefits include improving public health, reducing climate impact and improving the security of Seattle's food supply.
The diverse food-bearing plants will be sourced from the Pacific Northwest as well as regions throughout the world. For instance, one of the nut orchards will incorporate Asian varietals. "So, it’s going to have big overstory sweet chestnuts, and the understory will have persimmons and mulberries and Chinese haws...going down into the lower zone will be where the familiar herbs and lower plants from the Asian palate," Jenny Pell, the permaculturalist designing the food forest, told Living on Earth.
And her goals don't stop at the edge of the plot of land. "What I’d like to see is kind of a seed nursery or a plant nursery that’s going to propagate and spread well beyond the borders of that food forest—that I can imagine just sort of blossoming all across the Seattle landscape," she told Living on Earth.
The forest and its edible arboretum, berry patch, nut grove, community garden and kids area were made possible by a grant from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and P-Patch for $100,000.
The first phase, a 1.75-acre test zone, will be planted by the end of the year. Once the city approves the test garden, food trees will be planted throughout the remaining acreage.
Glen Herlihy, a pioneering member of the Friends of the Beacon Food Forest committee, hopes that the park will serve as a congregating area for the neighborhood's ethnic communities. In addition to the Native population, "there's Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Africans in the area. The Beacon Food Forest is a place where all ages and ethnicities can meet," he told NPR.
One day, people will be able to purchase small garden plots for $10 a year.