Food forests sow seeds of sustainability

by Ana Ceballos


In an attempt to fight modern agribusiness and its damaging costs to nature and humankind, a trend of food forests has been cropping up across the U.S.

The goal of food forests is to design natural, self-sustaining ecosystems with the perk of modifying nature’s bounty to the public’s needs, which will provide communities with what they need when it’s needed.

In Seattle, the latest city to jump on the foraging bandwagon, plans to develop a seven-acre food forest will allow the public to pick produce off of plants scattered throughout the park. The Beacon Food Forest will feature fruits such as apples, pears, plums and raspberries. The seven-acre plot could make the future community garden the largest urban food forest on public land in the country.

San Diego is also home to a few projects intending to promote this movement. One example is New Roots Community Farm in City Heights. This farm, which was visited by Michelle Obama in 2010, is farmed by international refugees and has been called a “model for the nation and the world.” New Roots took root in July 2009 and currently has 80 farmers from various countries farming on 2.3 acres of land.

San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project is another project with sustainable aims. Though divided from the public, it remains a nonprofit corporation focused on teaching farming by holding weekly field trips to educate attendees about healthy eating and the benefits growing organic foods bring to the community.

“Health is the main concern,” Director of San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project Lauren Shaw said. “Growing your own food makes you more prone to have a healthy diet. You become more aware of what you eat.”

These movements are part of a system called permaculture. The main philosophy is to integrate society with nature and maintain agriculturally productive, self-sustaining ecosystems.

Permaculture helps preserve species by causing no disturbance to natural forests and by nurturing the rehabilitation of ecosystems damaged by modern agriculture and human involvement.

According to Shaw, the system’s challenges exist mostly in the development of community farms because of issues that come along with property ownership. When establishing a farm, produce is not enough to cover land costs; therefore, it is common to find community gardens on land owned by churches and volunteers from the church community.

“It can definitely be done and the outcome is worth it,” Shaw said. “ I believe every effort into this project helps build a better, healthier community.”