With numerous biodiversity, food security and community benefits, some describe them as 'a place of healing'.
The Dr George Washington Carver edible park in Asheville, North Carolina, was the first public food forest to open in the US, back in 1997. Since then, many more have emerged around the country, and though there is no official data, according to the non-profit Sustainable America, there are now more than 70 public food forests in the United States. This is surely a sign of rising positivity in the fields of environment and health, and the beneficial growth of life-supporting, evolutionary trends.
As defined by expert Michael Muehlbauer, Orchard Director at the Philadelphia Orchard Project who is currently working to bring a food forest to public land in Philadelphia, food forests 'are a gardening technique or land management system, which mirrors and works with woodland ecosystems by incorporating trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that produce human food. This creates a living system with numerous benefits including wildlife habitat, resilient biodiversity, an abundance of food and medicinal yields, carbon sequestration, increased urban tree canopy, local food security, and an opportunity for community gathering and education.'
As Elise Evans, a long-time volunteer and former board president of Food Forest Collective, the nonprofit that manages the Beacon Food Forest puts it, many volunteers are driven by wanting a change from large mono-crop agriculture. And aside from knowing where their food comes from, they want to know their neighbours. 'In a world that's increasingly digital and stressful, it's consistent that we need community and this provides that. It's nourishing both for our bodies and our hearts to show up to this space.'