Thursday, October 1, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Food Forests Revisited

Food Forests.  A concept out of an urban fairy tale?

Come with me, this first day of October,  to my neighborhood near Johnson City, New York, and revisit a post from 2012.

But first, an update.

The building I blogged about below is finally going to be demolished over the next year or so.  It was ruined in a flood that occurred a little more than four years ago.  The preliminary work to start the demolishing process has already started.

In a way, it's nice to see people at the site, officially called Air Force Plant 59, again.  At the time of the flood, on September 8, 2011, some 1300 people worked there. The demolishing will be a long process, taking almost a year. I will blog more about that eventually.

I still haven't heard about the final outcome for the property.  Several ideas have been considered.

What a shame the food forest was not considered.   A food forest by my home would have been something special. I still think this is a great idea but it won't be the fate of this property.

In a way, it makes me sad.

And now, the post:
  * * *

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, belonging to a manufacturer called BAE,  relocated in a nearby village.  This relocation 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) awesome is that"

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 2011 flood - wouldn't it be great if we could turn this flood into an opportunity for renewal.

Does your area have a food forest?  Have you ever visited one?  Do they work?


  1. I'm hearing about a food forest in an urban area for the first time ..I wasn't aware of the concept..It's a shame the idea wasn't considered...I think it's definitely not worth ignoring...

  2. I've never heard of this before, but it's a good idea. Wouldn't it be cool if you could get the city to do it?

  3. I love the idea of a food forest, and am sad that it isn't being considered for your area. What a shame!

  4. What a great idea. Being able to pick fruit as you wander sounds a bit like paradise. Would it work? There are so many greedy people in the world. They might collect everything in the dark of night and take it away to sell. Such is man.


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