Seattle's Urban Food Forest Is Open For Foraging

If you’re in Seattle, you can soon skip the farmer’s market. The Beacon Food Forest will grow plums, apples, walnuts, berries, vegetables, and herbs—all free for the taking.

There’s free food everywhere, if you know where to look. Falling Fruit, which maps publicly available produce in several countries, lists 554 edible varieties (mostly plants) in 570,000 locations. It’s mostly stuff that currently goes to waste, like fruit that drops into streets, only to get mashed into concrete.

Most of the locations on Falling Fruit’s map are single trees (including some on private property, where asking the owner is advised) or small community spaces. But foraging is gaining scale all the time. Several places are planting dedicated forests for public use.

Look at Seattle’s embryonic Beacon Food Forest. Set to become the nation’s largest forageable space, it will cover seven acres within city limits, offering everything from plum, apple, and walnut trees, to berry bushes, herbs and vegetables. The goal is to recreate the ecosystem of a real forest with food-bearing varieties at different heights.

The community group behind the project has planted about 35 trees so far, and also completed a lot of landscaping and irrigation work, according to Glenn Herlihy, one of the creators. He expects the space to open later this summer, and to start producing food next year, beginning with herbs, vegetables, and annuals.

The forest will include a teaching space, conventional community gardening plots, a barbecue spot, and recreational areas. Since it’s a community project, it has to cater to many groups.

Courtesy of Friends of the Beacon Food Forest.

Herlihy hopes visitors will practice "ethical harvesting"—taking what they need, or what they can eat right away. But for those feeling greedy, there will be a "thieves garden" containing lower-grade stuff. "We also plan to have a lot of people around, so you’re not going to feel comfortable taking a lot of stuff," he adds.

Beacon is using land donated by Seattle Public Utilities, and has a $100,000 grant from the city. Herlihy says the forest could eventually produce "quite a bit of food," and he hopes it will be a place where the community can come together.

"People are learning where they can find food about the place," he says, referring to foraging in general. "That’s a good thing. Better that than it going to waste."

Falling Fruit’s founders, Caleb Phillips and Ethan Welty, see foraging as more than just another source of food. "Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food," they say, at their website.

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  • Duncan Conner

    Is the human race really this stupid? Especially liberals? (Yeah, I'm pretty sure these people are liberals). Did NO ONE take an introduction to economics class? Is no one familiar with the law of supply and the law of demand? How about the tragedy of the commons? How about all the similar experiments like this that have failed in the past? Good grief! So, a little basic economics: when the cost of something declines demand goes up and when the cost goes up demand goes down, and vice versa. Understand? No, imagine that all the ipads in the country were free (whenever you see the word free understand that someone pays for it, either through taxes or directly). Now, there's not enough ipads to go around (sorry, liberals, magical government cannot make that happen) so how quickly will it be before all the available ipads are gone? How about popcorn in a movie theater? Imagine if it was "free". What are the chances you'd be able to get popcorn next time you went to see a movie?

  • Jim Ellis

    LOL , you ignorant CONSERVATIVE clown! We will do whatever we want to do! We WILL grow our own food.. your "economics" suck.. your big ag/big pharma suck. you suck!.. and yes.. we UNDERSTAND! Why the fuck do you think we are doing this? We are STANDing UP for ourselves. You eat all the crap you want. I am sure you don't even have a clue how food is brought to your own table! We will EDUCATE our children and many more about your IGNORANCE. Your stupidity and your fake ideas. We are reality. We are saving ourselves from people just like YOU!. What the fuck is the deal with an Ipad? We are talking FOOD here idiot! LOL And who eats popcorn at a movie? I would guess you do.. that is just the reason you are so angry. You just don't have a clue about living and the world. Condescending asshole.. not more.. no less. I am bookmarking your name and checking the obits ..if you haven't yet.. you will pass of pesticides.. monsanto dreams.. and just from being ignorant.. no children I hope!

  • Stephen Flanagan

    The funny thing here is your graphic has an orange tree. The idea for this foraging is great but biology trumps photography... no can grow citrus in Seattle.

  • Sunho Lee

    This is pretty awesome and really will set a precedent for the world.  Plus the skills learned by those involved could make them become much more employable.  The benefits are truly endless.  There is nothing like eating blueberries off the bush, either.  :)

  • Brooke

    Putting the word "Seattle" and a picture of a citrus tree together is ludicrous!!

  • Danshaw4

    You might want to rethink your lead photo...I'm pretty sure Seattle's climate doesn't support citrus trees. I live on the east side of WA, and I know they don't do well here...