A (food) forest takes root in a (food) desert

How do you make a food desert bloom? The range of solutions to these urban areas without ready access to fresh food has included full-service grocery stores, farmers markets, and even small urban farms. All of these answers, of course, require someone (usually from outside the community) to make produce available. What if there was a way for food desert residents to just gather their own fresh food?

Residents of Syracuse, New York’s south side are focusing on just that question, and attempting to answer it with the establishment of a permaculture-based forest garden outside of the new Rahma Free Health Clinic. Different from other forms of gardening, a forest garden, or food forest, is established with perennial plants that support one another. A seven-layer, multi-tiered system ensures that the whole system gets what it needs in terms of nutrients and water, and sustains itself over the long term. This particular forest garden is being designed and built by The Alchemical Nursery, a local permaculture organization; you can take a look at the plans they’ve developed for the space.

The location of the forest garden is no accident: it’s designed to support the clinic in advocating for healthy lifestyles within this impoverished community. But the food grown won’t be limited to clinic patients – any member of the community can come to the garden (once established) to pick berries and other edibles.

Of course, such an effort requires some funding (though not a ton), so the involved organizations have launched a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo. They’ve got 17 days left to raise just over $1000; if you’re inspired by the work they’re doing, consider kicking in a few bucks.

Got experience with permaculture or urban food deserts? Let us know what you think of this effort.


Image credit: Screen capture from Rahma Forest Garden Trailer video