A couple of weeks ago we piled into the Prius with a tote bag of snacks and a list of destinations. We were on a mission to visit the various Forest Gardening projects in our area. While Pat has laid the ground work for our own Forest Garden at Spring Bird, we were interested in learning about larger projects that involved community support and implemented various non-profit models.
Ever since we have become forest dwellers and surrounded by farms in a more rural setting, we can't help but imagine trees planted on any "empty" plot of land. Whenever we see acreage for sale we dream of planting trees instead of building more houses or stores. We're beginning to explore what this desire means and if it could be channeled into the development of a non-profit geared towards the establishment and sustenance of Forest Gardens.
A Forest Garden is an ancient horticultural method of planting fruit and nut trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial vegetables either within established woodland ecosystems or in mimicry of them in order to produce food. This method of "farming" is lower maintenance and more ecologically sustainable. Climate change will exacerbate many problems inherent to current industrial farming methods such as: soil depletion, dependence on chemical pesticides, susceptibility to drought, and vulnerability to flooding. One thing is certain, our current means of food production will be threatened under future climates.
So, thankfully there are pioneers exploring "new" ways of growing food and teaching newcomers like us how to follow in their Forest Garden paths. These are the organizations we visited:
1. Dekalb County Community Gardens' Five Points Food Forest
2. Amma Center of Chicago's Food Forest
3. Northern Illinois Food Bank: Growing Food Security Garden
4. The Resiliency Institute: Ferry Forest Garden
5. The Resiliency Institute: Whole Foods Market Edible Forest Garden
After driving around Chicagoland all afternoon, we returned home a little slap happy and very inspired to dream up how we can contribute to this movement. We are very much in the brainstorm/exploration stage and kicking around ideas for a non-profit. So, we'd love any feedback, thoughts, and knowledge that you may have, and I look forward to keeping you updated as this project develops.
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.