Food forests grow food, community, habitats, and healthy soil. Carrie Regenstrief of Sudbury Shared Harvest tells us about Greater Sudbury’s Food Forests.
Food Forests, also called Edible Forest Gardens, are planted with fruit trees, shrubs, and other edible plants in such a way as to mimic woodland ecosystems. No pesticides or herbicides are used and once established, the gardens are relatively low maintenance, requiring no watering after the first season. The food produced is available to anyone in the community who wishes to harvest it.
In 2017 and 2018, Sudbury Shared Harvest coordinated volunteer involvement to plant Sudbury’s first edible forest garden at Delki Dozzi park. The 8,000 square foot Edible Forest Garden includes about 40 species of plants. Most are edible, although some were planted to attract pollinators, rather than for human consumption. (The list of plants can be found at https://sudburysharedharvest.ca/).
In 2019, volunteers worked together to establish four smaller Edible Forest Gardens at Elm West Playground, École secondaire Hanmer, Twin Forks Playground and at Anderson Farm. They range in size from 400 to 1,200 square feet. By 2023, Sudbury Shared Harvest hopes to establish at least one small edible forest garden in each of Sudbury's wards. Volunteers are trained to assist with maintaining the gardens and seasonal employees help out as well.
The gardens improve food security by increasing the amount of locally-grown food available to anyone who wishes to pick it, but also in a more indirect manner. Through the garden projects, Sudbury Shared Harvest provides opportunities for community members to build gardening and food literacy skills. Workshops including fruit tree and other plant care, seed-saving, food preserving and others are offered, often free of charge. In the coming years, the group also plans to do more work with schools, using the garden areas to provide experiential education.
The projects provide numerous environmental benefits. By focusing on converting existing lawn areas to edible forest gardens, the gardens lead to reduced water and chemical usage. Edible landscapes also increase the diversity of insect populations, create habitat for birds and other wildlife, and provide ideal conditions for the millions of microbes that make up healthy soil, which is critically important for their ability to store carbon and slow climate change. Through the garden projects, citizens are encouraged to participate in the transformation of lawn areas on public properties and also to gain knowledge and skills that could encourage them to make those changes on their own properties.