Seattle was a foodie paradise when I lived there in the 70s and again in the late 80s. That scene has kept improving over the years, helped along by supportive local government. The city has a Food Action Plan with four worthy goals:
- Healthy food for all
- Grow local
- Strengthen the local economy
- Prevent food waste
If you drive around Seattle neighbourhoods, you will find people growing food in their front yards and in the planting strips next to streets. Those without yards may be gardening in one of the many P-Patches (a 40-year-old community garden scheme) located around the city , planting vegetables in someone else’s garden space (Urban Garden Share) or buying produce from one of the Seattle P-Patch Market Gardens.
One of my favourite initiatives is the 7-acre Beacon Food Forest, a permaculture project that is turning public space into an edible urban forest garden. Here is the way they describe it:
A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals make up the lower levels. The Beacon Food Forest will combine aspects of native habitat rehabilitation with edible forest gardening.
The goal of the Beacon Food Forest is to bring the richly diverse community together by fostering a Permaculture Tree Guild approach to urban farming and land stewardship. By building a community around sharing food with the public we hope to be inclusive to all in need of food.
The Food Forest is set to include an Edible Arboretum with fruits gathered from regions around the world, a Berry Patch for canning, gleaning and picking, a Nut Grove with trees providing shade and sustenance, a Community Garden using the p-patch model for families to grow their own food, a Gathering Plaza for celebration and education, a Kid’s Area for eduction and play and a Living Gateway to connect and serve as portals as you meander through the forest.
A lot of youthful energy is behind all the local-food action in Seattle, and it is that kind of energy that improves the quality of life for everyone. So hats off to Seattle for joining other cities acknowledging that urban systems can be viable and inclusive. They give me hope.
You can follow the Beacon Food Forest on Facebook.
Meet the Beacon Food Forest volunteers and see work that is underway in this video from November 2013.