Food Forests. A concept out of an urban fairy tale?.
The people of Seattle may have thought they were living a fairy tale when the Food Forest idea was first proposed. It is no fairy tale, and is taking shape even now. And it may be the answer to some of the devastation our area of upstate NY, and other areas hit by massive flooding in the last couple of years, have been looking for.
What is a food forest? Quoting from Take Part, an urban project new to our country is unfolding in Seattle:
"A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be
planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and
chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit
trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus,
guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more.
All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the
city’s first food forest."
Now let's cut to one of the casualties of our flood here in Westover, an area just to the west of Binghamton, NY. A flood-ruined 600,000 square foot building lies waiting for the wrecking ball. 11 months ago today, the flood came and almost swept 1300 jobs away from Westover. (The jobs relocated in a nearby village but this may only be temporary.)
The best our local officials can come up with is to use the land, once the building (one of the largest wood framed structures in the United States) is demolished, as a park.
Well, let's take this a step further. What about a food forest? True, the soil may be polluted from one of the parting gifts of the flood - a spill of oil and we-don't-want-to-know what other chemicals. But you wouldn't want that soil in a park where our children would be playing either, would we?
A city bus stops directly in front of the building. There is already a parking lot. The land and building consists of approximately 30 acres.
What if we had apples, blueberries, raspberries, herbs and other edibles growing on that land? What if it was free for the picking? What if we also had lovely blooming plants in the spring? True, we don't have Seattle's climate, but this is a major apple growing area. Many herbs thrive here, too.
We already have a local botanical garden in Binghamton in a flood prone area. When it floods, volunteers put it back together. That area is much more flood prone than the BAE property. So we should not be afraid of the "What if" question.
We would have to find volunteers but I think it would be possible.
So how would we campaign for something like this? A fellow blogger, Food That Sings, wrote me from Australia:
" And that's where it
starts...perhaps you could write a letter about your idea; send
copies to the council, the local newspaper; radio station, even
post a copy on the school bulletin board, community shopping centre etc.
etc. You could plant the seed; start the growth (ha ha pardon the
pun)...how awesome is that"
Yes, it is awesome We in the Triple Cities need to be on the map for some other reason than a mass killing of 13 in 2009 and this flood - wouldn't it be great if we could turn this flood into an opportunity for renewal.
And I know just who I am going to write - the man running against the incumbant Broome County Executive. I met him earlier this year at the Otsiningo Park Farmers Market. Now it's time for him to put his "money" where his beliefs are.
Check your mail, Tarik Abdelazim.
Does your area have a food forest? Have you ever visited one? Do they work?