Food Forest: An Edible Ecosystem in Edmonton’s River Valley.
On a South facing slope at the mouth of Mackinnion ravine in Edmonton’s river valley, lies the city’s first publicly planted food forest. A self-sufficient edible ecosystem, the food forest captures water, increases biodiversity, reduces city maintenance costs, and cleans the air while sequestering carbon, all while growing food and building community. No need for weeding, tilling, watering, or chemicals! Presently, the Edmonton food forest contains over 2500 edible, native trees and shrubs; saskatoons, high bush cranberries, low bush cranberries, currents elderberries, pin cherries, beaked hazelnuts, chokecherries, and raspberries.
The Lead-Up The City of Edmonton has an ambitions goal of doubling it’s urban forest. It’s also serious about naturalization (Here’s a link to the city’s Naturalization Plan). In 2012, the City of Edmonton established Roots for Trees “an enhanced planting initiative which intends to increase tree planting within the city, through continued partnerships with corporations, individual residents and community groups. The annual target of this initiative is to plant an addition 16,000 trees annually on public and private land.” Meanwhile, public support for increasing food security and urban agriculture continues to grow. The idea behind and motivation for Edmonton’s first public food forest was to combine all of these initiatives into one project.
Installing The Food Forest The idea behind the food forest was to create something self-sufficient and self-maintaining. The city is concerned with two things; (a) that plants are native and (b) that it won’t require future maintenance. So we know that we have to hit these targets. In addition, the design needed to be simple and reproducible yet take into account the specifics of the site. Here’s are two concept sketches and a video explaining the logic behind them.
Step 1: Teams of volunteers will use a simple instrument called an A-frame level to map the contours lines of the site. After mapping our count our lines, we’ll then dig small swales along them.
Step 2: The team will dig a small trench along the counter line to make a swale. A swale is a simple trench that passively harvests water at the site and encourages it to soak into the soil where it can then be accessed by the plants.
Step 3: Plant edibles along the lower lip of the swale; planting taller trees and shrubs near the centre of the design and shorter shrubs near the outside (mimicking a forests edge).
Step 4: (potentially) The city has been developing an app that lets users tag and add plants to the City of Edmonton’s Open Tree Map. Unfortunately, only the Google Android App is available at the moment.
About the Organizers:
Dustin Bajer is a high school teacher, permaculture designer, master gardener, and self-discribed network nerd. Dustin is passionate about designs that integrate natural and built environments and had been organizing the Jasper Place High School permaculture program. In 2014, Dustin became a member of the city’s Food Council.
The City of Edmonton’s Roots for Trees program is an enhanced planting initiative which intends to increase tree planting within the city. through continued partnerships with corporations, individual residents and community groups. The annual target of this initiative is to plant an addition 16,000 trees annually on public and private land.