Having moved into a townhouse community in the DC metro area last year, I appreciate even more what community food forests can offer those living in urban areas. The opportunity for growing collaboratively, meeting others, feeling a sense of community, and more have certainly been longing thoughts on my mind that have put me in search of a community food forest in my area. I’ve yet to find one, but of course, I’m also thinking about where I might be able to start one! For now, I’ve had to grow my own little food forest, mostly in pots, from my top deck down to the little patch of ground we have below the deck.
I’ve been able to grow tomatoes, strawberries, dahlias, nasturtiums, lemon grass, lavender, chocolate mint, mojito mint, oregano, lemon thyme, germinate paw paws, turmeric, bay leaf garlic chives, lettuce, kale, butternut squash, zucchini, green beans, regular chives, hardy kiwi, a grape vine, green beans, and edamame- which has at least kept me sane over a year of changes. I realized this week that there’s nothing quite like harvesting squash that makes one realize fall has arrived. Which also made me realize how long it has been since I’ve tended this garden of blog posts or the Facebook page!!
Traditionally, at least in the colder regions of the northern hemisphere, fall has been a time to collect the harvest, reflect on the growth of the year, and give thanks. It is also a time to regain balance as daylight and darkness move towards more equal times of the day. The changing of the seasons becomes visible all around us in the leaves of trees, the slowing growth of summer crops, the water flow in streams or creeks. Even if someone lives in an area where there is no fall, the changing of seasons could be marked by an increase or decrease in rain, or other changes in our environment. For example, in Cambodia, there are celebrations for the seasonal change of the water movement in the Great Tonle Sap River due to heavy rains and winds reversing the flow for a short period of time. I urge those of you involved with a community project to think about what signifies the changing of the seasons in your area and how can it be celebrated in ways that strengthen your community?
I have been reflecting on the seeds I’ve planted in my life over the last year and I am extremely grateful for a year with many harvests! After publishing The Community Food Forest Handbook in July 2018, I largely stepped away from maintaining the website or the Facebook page because I entered a birthing phase of life! First was the book, which then took me on quite a few trips to speak at great conferences around the country. Then, it was my business, Kindred Roots Design, which I co-founded with two other wonderful women. We have just finished a significant portion of a project for rejuvenating a large tract of degraded land in NC and I feel honored to be a part of the endeavor that is under way. Lastly, it was my own little lady bug who appropriately arrived on Mother’s Day and I’ve spent a wonderful summer tending her and watching how quickly she’s growing! She will continue to be my number one priority, but I am now also ready to regain balance in my life and return to tending this garden of social media posts to support the concepts of community food forests and social connection. So, I leave people designing the social component of community food forests with these questions for autumn reflection:
What were the most important figurative “seeds” that were sown this year for your project? When do you expect to gather the harvest and if you have already- how are you celebrating it?
This whole world could use more gratitude in it. How are you using the activities, special events , or rituals at the community food forest to encourage and create space for practicing gratitude?
What do individuals involved in the project have to be thankful about and what can the community as a whole express gratitude for?
How does being involved in a community food forest bring balance into the lives of those involved? How does it bring balance to the environment where it is located?
Are there any parts of the project that have reached the end of their season and might need to be retired or let go to make room for next year’s growth?