Can community food forests offer one strategy to create meaningful change?
I am writing a chapter on community food forests (CFFs) this morning for potential inclusion in a book on re-enlivenment of cities. Reflecting on the role of CFFs it is evident that the cultural, socioeconomic and political context of each community shapes the story of creative place-making that occurs during the establishment of a community food forest. These are more than just food-producing places. Although steps in the process are similar, each story is unique. If you are working on a CFF, particularly in areas of highly diverse ethnic, cultural and socio-economic neighborhoods- please consider reflecting on the following questions:
- What story do you want your community food forest to tell?
- What culture do you want your “community” to have?
- If your CFF is intended to address social justice- who are you inviting to participate?
- How are you inviting them?
- Do you have a strategy to reach the people you’d like to build “community” with? Literally and conceptually.
Writing this morning also made me reflect on what is happening right now in Baltimore, yet another incident of a rising tide in our country. CFFs do not only offer a place to grow food together and produce solutions to social injustice in access to food, they offer a place to hear EACH OTHER’s story, learn about your neighbor and on a small scale and create microcosms of community that can have larger impact within your city. They are refuges from the chaos that we often feel is beyond our control, whether it is or isn’t. They give us a place where we can reconnect with nature to restore our spirit. We can reconnect with growing food which nourishes are body. And hopefully, we can connect with others which restores a feeling of belonging to a place, valuing collaboration and fostering respect for people we may not have taken the time to know otherwise.
Re-enlivenment of urban spaces through ecological efforts mean moving beyond simply restoring a degraded ecosystem to its previous state. To re-enliven a space is not to only bring life back to it, but to create a new ecosystem that thrives in the changed conditions around it. We are part of the ecosystem. My hope for Baltimore, along with most of our country, would be to create evolved ecosystems that will thrive in new, quickly changing conditions. Let’s not restore Baltimore and other places in our country to a state that is only bound to repeat itself. AGAIN.
An intense lightening and rain storm can ravage a forest ecosystem and create gaps in the canopy by bringing down large trees. Sometimes large trees die out and come down on their own. In turn, those trees knock down what is below them and create open spaces. Open spaces where damage occurred mean sunlight will hit the forest floor again catalyzing new growth by seedlings waiting patiently there to take part in the resource they were previously shadowed from, the sun. The forest renews itself as new growth rises as a result of the storm. I hope the same will be true for Baltimore, Ferguson, L.A., N.Y.C., etc. and for our collective mentality in this country. The storms are happening for a reason. If we can weather them, I hope they create space for re-enlivened systems that respond to the necessary changes needed to regrow.
Clifton Park Food Forest- Baltimore, MD
In light of the chaos happening in Baltimore- let’s look at some of the positive initiatives in creating spaces where people can come together over growing food. Please check out Clifton Park Food Forest which was started last year and continues to grow with the help of multiple organizations of volunteers coming together.
The food forest is a joint project by Charm City Farms, Baltimore Orchard Project and Civic Works. As I find out more about this new project I will be sure to post more information. In the meantime, check out the links for yourself and let’s imagine a better future where everyone’s story matters and our urban areas are welcoming places rather than riots.