Edible Landscapes

streetImagine walking down the street in Amherst and passing bushes full of blueberries free for the picking.  Or nut trees in the Kendrick Park with a sign saying “please gather and share these nuts.”  Or perhaps an edible groundcover like Alpine strawberry, wintergreen, sage, mint, oregano, chamomile or thyme around the buildings downtown?

Crazy, you say?

Maybe – but this is what is happening in Todmorden, a small town in England.  There is unused or underutilized public and private land in many places that could be growing food.  Please enjoy the story of how this crazy idea got started!

As Pam Warhurst says in the video, this is the beginning of a revolution.  Food provides a unifying language that everyone speaks.  Community resilience can grow and community spirit can explode when a simple idea like growing food in public spaces gets momentum.  Communities around the world are copying Todmorden become more food self-sufficient by replacing unused grassy areas with beautiful and productive food plants.

We can all do more to grow food in public spaces.  According to a recent news story “Local government officials from Baltimore, Maryland, to Bainbridge Island, Washington are plowing under the ubiquitous hydrangeas, petunias, daylilies, and turf grass around public buildings, and planting fruits and vegetables instead — as well as in underutilized spaces in our parks, plazas, street medians, and even parking lots.”  Seattle created the nation’s first public food forest!

A similar project is taking place right across the river where aA group of young people in Northampton, MA have launched a campaign called “Help Yourself“.  Their plan is to plant “ignored, abused, and out of mind places, like vacant lots, bike paths, road medians, and lawns of businesses and households” with edible plants.  They are creating “free food in public spaces”, such as:

  • A community herb garden with informative signs…
  • Free to use – and harvest – raised beds around town…
  • Abundant fruit and nut trees that shower future generations with real wealth…
  • Peas, grapes, and kiwis climbing along fences and railings…
  • Beautiful flowers that attract pollinating insects and reduce pests!

A recent Kickstarter campaign in Northampton raised $2500 in just a few weeks to begin planting fruit trees along the town bike path and other public spaces.  There are lots of possibilities for creating edible landscapes.

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