What Values Does Your Community Food Forest Have About Celebrating Love?
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, which we have come to know as a holiday associated with love, romance, compassion, and all kinds of relationships, including friendship. However, in my post on Tuesday, I mentioned the ancient festival of Lupercalia, which was also about purification. The origins of both Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia, from what I have read, were a bit dark, bloody, violent, not fantastic for women, and involved a lot of partying in a sense. And, it all more or less revolved around ideas of fertility, of the land or body. So what does this all have to of with community food forests? How a community or culture celebrates something reflects values and traditions of the time. Community food forests are about change. I think many of us, at least in the US, feel that Valentine’s Day has become an over-commercialized holiday which has completely lost value. So, on this day of ancient celebrations of purification- how can you use a community food forest to purify what holidays have become? Creating community around a food forest requires some celebrating and bringing people together. The great thing about creating community, is that it is an opportunity to ask the people coming together what values are important to them as a community!! Use those values to create your own form of celebration and holiday focused on those values- demonstrate to others what your community is about, what change you hope to inspire in the places you live.
What could Valentine’s Day week mean for your community? What could a celebration at a food forest like? I was thinking about this yesterday and here are some ideas I have:
Did you know that this week, the National Random Acts of Kindness Day is celebrated on February 17th? Most community food forests have a core group that keeps them running and a regular group of volunteers the core group can rely on for activities. Additionally, when events are posted, new volunteers are attracted to come see what everything is about. Here are some ideas for compassionate acts this week to celebrate- finding a local nursing home or elderly care center and potentially planting some fruit trees or medicinal herbs used for tea and helping to train staff how to care for them or agreeing to return periodically to provide stewardship to the project. Plus, intergenerational sharing and interaction has become limited in our culture- plan time to ask residents of an senior center, or elderly family members, to share memories or knowledge they have about growing plants, recipes, or foraging. Share those stories. Maybe there is something that can be incorporated into the food forest design that makes it even more special. My great-great-grandparents are all from Poland. In explaining my work to my grandfather, we entered into a wonderful conversation about how he remembers going to foraging for mushrooms in Upstate NY with his mother who brought over her knowledge of mushroom identification from foraging in Poland. I would have never had that conversation or known that otherwise. Try it! Record it!
Find out if there are people in the community that need some help at home pruning or caring for edible trees or bushes and plan a day to help and teach them. And for a random act of kindness, gather some fruit that might be available at some point in your food forest and go drop a bag off at a family in need with a note and directions to the food forest letting them know there is free harvesting and what can be harvest in each month of growth.
Are there school groups involved with your community food forest? Maybe those students can either visit the food forest this week or someone visits the classroom and explores with students what they love about nature, about foods, about the food forest or just being outside. This also provides great information for planning future activities or including elements in a design of a food forest. Encourage them to share this information with their parents. And if they don’t really seem to love anything about these topics, arrive ready with cool facts and ideas to share your love of these spaces with them and help it to grow.
How about doing a fundraiser in the community for the food forest and helping people buy meaningful gifts for their loved ones while cutting down on the commercialized products for Valentine’s Day? What could say long-lasting love that bears sweetness and abundance better than planting a fruit tree in the named of a loved one? Consider a fundraiser based on offering different types of fruit trees to be planted with a sign and loving message from the sponsor? The focus could be selecting perennial edible plants that symbolize love, compassion or romance- it is all on how you present the information and want to frame the meaning. (Personally I’d be honored and feel a lot of love if my husband planted/donated a cherry or apple tree in honor of our relationship on Valentine’s Day-wink, wink, hint, hint dear! 🙂 Food forests can contain more than edibles, but those areas should be highly marked so it is clear where non-edibles are. If you live in a climate where perennial flowers could be grown at this time of year, grow them for the pollinators and to maybe offer small bouquets for donations during holidays like Valentine’s or Mother’s Day?
I value I have for Valentine’s Day is celebrating important relationships in general- all the people that I have felt blessed to have in my life and that I feel connected to. So it is a great day to just celebrate community- the community that has come together and given love to a space to create a food forest for everyone to enjoy. It could be a great time to bring your community together to think about the social ties that have formed, remind each other what you appreciate about what (time, energy, dedication, friendship, etc.) has been given to the group and the food forest. If you are living in a climate where the food forest might have little tangible goods to offer the public at this time of year- expand what types of goods are offered- maybe make space for a loving-kindness meditation open to the public to join and use the opportunity to explain to people the values of your community and that the food forest is always looking for new volunteers in coming months.
In summary, help make your community food forest fertile ground for the values that your community holds important. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to think outside-the-box for celebrating in February and using the community food forest in constructive ways to create positive change where you live!