Have you ever heard of a “food forest”? Is that something like Big Rock Candy Mountain? No, rather than a fairy tale, it’s a real thing. It’s food-producing trees and plants on public land – kind of like an orchard or garden, but free for citizens to access. And Barrie is starting on the path to having food forests right here, in partnership with FruitShare!
When the City of Barrie had plans to plant trees on public land as part of its reforestation efforts, FruitShare saw it as an opportunity to feed the hungry. Rather than only plant typical native tree species, the City agreed to include some fruit-bearing trees. A dozen now make up Barrie’s first urban fruit forest. Residents will soon be able to enjoy picking fresh apples, peaches, pears and cherries free of charge. In the unlikely event that fruit goes unpicked, FruitShare will harvest and split it between FruitShare volunteers and the Barrie Food Bank.
|A vision of an integrated food forest - by Molly Danielsson|
The City wisely recognizes that urban forest cover provides many benefits, including water retention, improved air quality, mitigating climate change and habitat for wildlife. Now there’s the added benefit of providing free food for Barrie residents for years to come.
Barrie’s urban fruit forest is the first step in the partnership between the City of Barrie and FruitShare. Next is the development of an Urban Forest Management Plan for Barrie, including a food component, with possible expansion to other public lands or right-of-ways.
While the idea is in the earliest stages here in Barrie, further progress has been made in cities like Seattle, Washington, where the Beacon Food Forest is shaping up to be a 7-acre integrated project including an edible arboretum, a berry patch, a nut grove, a community garden, plus gathering and play areas. Certainly we’ll monitor their success for ideas on how to better manage our own public food resources.
This all hearkens back to the idea of “the Commons” – land belonging to the community, free for all to use and share without having to pay rent. Sadly, over the years, most commons were enclosed and appropriated for private use and profit. Nowadays the commons mainly just exists for recreational uses – parks, trails, and beaches. But in prior times, the commons was a vital part of the food production system, providing fruit and other wild crops, herbs, and medicines, as well as grazing space for livestock and fuel for fires. It recognized the ancient principle that the earth was given to all to share, including land and the fruits of nature, but the things people planted, harvested, built or improved became their own, as long as they left enough for others to also provide for themselves. Perhaps initiatives like food forests can help bring back that earth-sharing ethic.
FruitShare is a local not-for-profit bringing volunteers to harvest otherwise wasted fruit from residential trees. This rescued fruit is then divided between home owner, volunteer pickers and the Barrie Food Bank. There are many ways to get involved, such as volunteering to pick, sharing your fruit tree, or providing donations to FruitShare. Please call us at 705-715-2255, email FruitShare.Barrie@gmail.com or visit www.FruitShareBarrie.ca.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Barrie paving the path to food forests". Thank you to FruitShare coordinator Jenna Zardo for her contributions to this article.