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Put the Food Back in the Forest, Part II.

In our last blog about food forest, we discussed what a food forest is, why it is important, and some basic steps to follow. This update will be about some common challenges to creating a food forest that is meant to be a public space.

Site ownership is the key issue when it comes to a publicly accessible food forest. This should be the first thought when planning, before any trees are purchased or site plans are made, make sure the property is under control. During planning thought should be given to not only where the site is located, but how easily the land can be acquired. This can be done either through partnership with a local city, land bank, parks district, land conservancy, etc. or by directly purchasing the property. If the property is meant to be publicly accessible it would be practical to work with any entity that already manages land that is publicly accessible.

The second major issue is community buy-in. If the site is meant to be publicly accessible, then the community and other community organizations needs to buy into the idea of having a food forest. It can be sold in several ways: community asset, beautification, soil restoration, environmental restoration, habitat creation, green space access, food accessibility, ect. These are all tools that can be used when seeking community buy-in, however be aware that not everyone is going to be excited about every aspect of the project. Going together with community buy-in are signage and access. A public site should be inviting and informative. If people are unsure of what it is, or the site lacks a welcoming entrance, they will not use it. If the site is not being used, then all the work done to build it up is wasted.

Since our last update, Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District has installed the first phase of the Food Forest at Coit Road Farmers Market. We planted Black Walnut, Pawpaw, Pecan, Persimmon, Elderberry, Strawberry, Black Berry, American Plum, and Cherry. The site already had Hazelnut, Oak, Mulberry, and Raspberry growing. During our next phase of planting, we hope to plant medicinal herbs, fungi, and other low-growing plants to help fill in the under-story. We are also working to install signage and a short walking path through the property.

If you would like more information about food forests, Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District’s work, or the National Association of Conservation Districts, please contact Jakob at jhamlescher@cuyahogaswcd.org. If you would like to view the presentation CSWCD gave to the National Association of Conservation Districts on the challenges faced with our project, Click Here

Blog author: Jakob Hamlescher, Urban Technician

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