The concept of a food forest has its roots in permaculture, a philosophy that advocates for managing agricultural landscapes in harmony with nature. The practice emphasizes perennial, low-maintenance crops that leverage natural nutrient inputs, drainage patterns and climate to achieve a self-sustaining, food-producing ecosystem. A food forest is quite literally a forest that produces food for people (and, most certainly, forest critters) to eat. Nut and fruit-producing trees and shrubs are planted with herbs, vines and ground flora that produce fruits, vegetables, and edible greens and roots. Urban communities are increasingly taking up the practice as a way to put underutilized city land to work and combine urban agriculture goals with goals for open space, recreation, and community development.
Here’s a quick rundown of 20 urban food forests or related projects:
Launched in London in 2011, the London Orchard Projects works with community groups to inventiry, restore and create urban orchards across the city.
The City of Edmonton is expanding its urban food forest footprint with this 25-species edible ecosystem.
Tree fruits, berries and vegetables are free for the taking ni Seattle’s Beacon Forest Neighborhood.
“The food forest is growing into an enchanting place, where community can explore new perspectives on food production, creative land use, and urban sustainability,” Tessa Stiven, Food Forest project supervisor, told the Cowicha Valley Citizen.
Built on the site of a former a trash heap, this urban forest garden has been feeding the residents of a low-income African American neighborhod near Asheville since 1997.
This project of Keep Akron Beautiful opened in May with the goal of converting a vacant lot to a food forest.
Image: Permaculture Research Institute
Fukuoha’s food forest and writings served as a model for the author of classic food forest how-to book Edible Forest Gardens.
The City of Madison has enacted ordinances in support of edible landscaping, and Madison Fruit and Nuts is maintaining an online map of community orchards.
Boston is turning the famed tea party on its head with the Boston Tree Party‘s civic fruit initiative to propogate heirloom apple trees throughout the city.
From mapping publicly available fruit trees in the L.A. area to planting a public orchard, artist-collective Fallen Fruit is fighting food waste by feeding urban foragers.
The San Francisco Urban Orchard Project helps community groups to plant and maintain publicly accessible fruit trees.
12. Austin, Texas
As part of its urban forest plan, the city that brought you SXSW is now planning for food forests.
Four food forests and community gardens are feeding neighborhoods in the city of brotherly love.
The City of Calgary has planted four public orchards across the city, with plans for more.
People can register their residential fruit trees and gardens in Tacoma as part of a gleaning effort to provide food to those who need it.
16. Toronto, Ontario
This Toronto community orchard was planted in 2009, is maintained by volunteers, and contributes fruit to local food banks and the community.
17. Youngstown, Ohio
This food forest of 29 donated trees was planted in July and will supply food to low-income residents in the Youngstown area.
An orchard blooms in the midst of corn country thorugh the Bloomington Community Orchard initiative.
Food forests are also blooming down under.
This app allows you to find food forests or public trees in your neighborhood.
For more on food forests and to learn how to create your own, check out Edible Forest Gardens. And if you know of other existing or planned food forests, please list them in comments.