Beacon Food Forest
About The P-Patch
Beacon Food Forest
What is the Beacon Food Forest?
It is a community-driven community garden project that utilizes a gardening technique that mimics a woodland ecosystem using edible trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials, and annuals make up the lower levels. The project is located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood on the Jefferson Park reservoir (15 Ave S. and S. Dakota St).
Why is this project important?
As the first large-scale public food forest, this garden has captured the imaginations of people all around the world with visions of how communities can come together in urban places to grow food and revitalize the landscape with community gardening permaculture practices.
What is the role of the City of Seattle in this project?
The project is a part of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening Program. Major construction of the food forest was managed by P-Patch Program staff using $100,000 from the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy. P-Patch staff helped the volunteers with community organization and engagement, along with leadership development during the design process, and staff continues to provide ongoing support for the project.
The community design process for the food forest and construction of the community gathering features were supported with two separate Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) awards totaling $106,295. The NMF staff provided support as well.
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) owns the property of the food forest. It has made 1.75 acres available for this initial phase of the project with the possibility of expanding the food forest in the future if interest and community engagement will support it. SPU staff reviewed the plans and worked with the volunteers to ensure the project was doable and feasible on this site.
In addition, the project receives support from Seattle Parks and Recreation which provides frequent deliveries of gardening materials and from the Office of Arts and Culture that encourages artists to collaborate with the project. All in all, hundreds of City staff hours have gone toward this project to help make it a reality.
How was the community involved?
This project is a significant grassroots effort, initiated and driven by community members. A group of friends and neighbors initiated the idea of a food forest in this location. With funds from Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, the group launched a community design process and invited neighbors and permaculture enthusiasts from around the region to participate. Hundreds of people have participated in all aspects of its vision, design, and construction. Hundreds more participated in work parties to build the food forest with tasks ranging from spreading woodchips to installing a water system. Community volunteers are responsible for ongoing stewardship and maintenance of the garden.
What else is cool about this Beacon Food Forest?
The Beacon Food Forest combines aspects of native habitat rehabilitation with edible forest gardening.
Special elements underway now include:
- Edible arboretum with fruits gathered from regions around the world· Berry patch for canning, gleaning and picking· Nut grove with trees providing shade and sustenance· Garden plots for vegetable growing· Gathering plaza for celebration and education· Bee hives for pollination and honey· Kids' area for education and play· Living gateway to connect and serve as portals as residents meander through the forest
Can anyone harvest from the food forest?
With the excitement this project has generated, it's clear that the idea of a garden where gleaning and grazing is free and open to all is intriguing and inspiring to many.
The Beacon Food Forest has three main priorities:
- Create a community around food
- Educate the community about growing food
- With those two goals in place, harvest the food.
Beacon Food Forest visionaries stress the many benefits of the project to the community beyond just the harvest. They echo the P-Patch Program's emphasis on the "community" in community gardening. Their plan is to produce an abundance of food so that "ethical" harvesting from the collective areas will be available to all. By "ethical harvesting," they mean taking only what a person needs without damaging the plant. Some areas of the garden will not be available for open gleaning. Signs on the site will provide guidelines for harvesting. In addition, volunteers will work together in organized ways to harvest and share the food with the broader community.
How long did it take to design and build the food forest?
It will take years for the food forest to grow to full maturity. Major construction began in the late winter of 2013. Earthmoving and grading was done by a contractor, but the rest of the food forest is being built by volunteer labor. Regular work parties bring volunteers together to create new elements and care for those that are already built and planted. Much of the initial 1.75 acre area of the food forest was planted in the fall of 2013 and the 29 annual vegetable plots were ready for gardeners in the early spring of 2014. Even after the plants are growing, it will take several years for the trees to bear fruit and reach their full size. In the meantime, berries, herbs, pollinator plants, and annual vegetables will grow and produce.
About the P-Patch Community Gardening Program
As part of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, the P-Patch Community Gardening Program is made up of many different public community gardens throughout Seattle's neighborhoods. Community gardeners care for small plots of land, individually and collectively, to grow organic food, flowers, fruits, and herbs. Together, they also care for common areas in the gardens. Many community gardens have large shared areas dedicated to growing food for donation. Presently there are 89 P-Patch community gardens, 3,098 plotholders, and more than 6,800 gardeners. P-Patch community gardens are open to the public to enjoy. Each community garden is different and reflects its surrounding neighborhood and the volunteers who care for it. Their amenities may include picnic areas, benches, art, flower gardens, educational signage, sustainability demonstrations, and children's gardens. Gardens are built on property owned by various city departments and other public and private owners.
In addition to the forest guilds which the community has been building over the past few months, construction has recently begun on the Beacon Food Forest P-Patch. Please see the below information for how you can get involved in this community led process.
For more information and to find out when and how to get involved with the Food Forest part of the community garden,
go to http://beaconfoodforest.org/ or call (206) 684-0264
The Beacon Food Forest started in 2009 as a final design project for a permaculture design course. The site chosen is a 7-acre area which is currently all grass, on the western terraced slopes of what was thought to be Jefferson Park but in reality is owned by Seattle Public Utilities. The design was then presented to the community of Beacon Hill, Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, and Seattle Public Utilities to see if there was support for such a project. Support was granted in the form of an SAS grant from Seattle Department of Neighborhoods for $22,000 in December of 2010 to hire a design consultant and create a schematic design for a food forest. In March of 2011 the Friends of Beacon Food Forest hired The Harrison Design Team consisting of Margarett Harrison,Jenny Pell, Dave Boehnlein and Kris Pendleton. After a series of community meetings the team presented a final schematic (viewable here). In December 2011 the project received a $100,000 award from the Parks & Green Spaces Levy for design and construction for a 1-acreportion of the food forest.
A Food Forest is a gardening technique or land management system that mimics a woodland ecosystem but substitutes in edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees are the upper level, while below are berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals. Companions or beneficial plants are included to attract insects for natural pest management while some plants are soil amenders providing nitrogen and mulch. Together they create relationship to form a forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food with less maintenance. Learn more about food forests at the Edible Food Gardens website.