There are plenty of innovative ideas in urban farming: vertical gardens, aquaponic farms, community gardens. In Seattle, they're taking another innovative approach while taking the community garden aspect quite literally.
In Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood, plans are in place to turn an empty seven acre lot that didn't receive much attention (expect from the occasional lawn mower) into a "food forest" for everyone to use. And when it's complete, the Beacon Food Forest will be the largest public food forest in the United States, according to the Seattle news website Crosscut. It will look something like this:
[A]n entire acre will feature large chestnuts and walnuts in the overstory, full-sized fruit trees like big apples and mulberries in the understory, and berry shrubs, climbing vines, herbaceous plants, and vegetables closer to the ground.
Further down the path an edible arboretum full of exotic looking persimmons, mulberries, Asian pears, and Chinese haws will surround a sheltered classroom for community workshops. Looking over the whole seven acres, you'll see playgrounds and kid space full of thornless mini edibles adjacent to community gardening plots, native plant areas, a big timber-frame gazebo and gathering space with people barbecuing, a recreational field, and food as far as you can see.
In a food forest, everything from the tree canopy to the roots is edible or useful in some way.
It sounds like the Wonka factory, only good for you. In reality, it will be a large scale example of permaculture, an attempt to mimic natural ecosystems. In this case, though, inedible plants will be substituted for edible ones and provide fresh food for the community. Plus, the lot will now be better equipped to capture more of Seattle's notorious rain water.
The project will break ground this spring and could provide a blueprint for other U.S. cities interested in urban agriculture.
Photo: Beacon Food Forest