In Seattle community gardening has taken on a new identity in the form of an “urban food forest”. The concept, within the 28,000 sq. meter space, is to have a self-sustaining edible park where city residents can freely go and harvest fruits and vegetables for free.

The landscape architects at Harrison Design are the principals behind the planning and design process, but have worked closely with the community for inputs. The overall goal of the Beacon Food Forest is to foster both permaculture and land stewardship techniques, within an urban context.

A food forest mimics a woodland ecosystem but aims to maximize the edible proportion. The upper canopy of the forest is comprised of larger fruit and nut trees, while underneath edible shrubs, perennials and annuals grow.  Due to the location being on a sloped hill sun exposure is efficiently utilized. Companions, or beneficial plants, are also included as tools for natural pest management, soil amendment, nitrogen fixing, and mulching. Together, these plant elements create a symbiotic relationship that forms a sustainable ecosystem, which thrives under minimal management, yet is capable of producing high yields.

The food forest will provide opportunities for cultural exchange, education, and recreation. It includes an edible arboretum, a berry patch, nut grove, community garden, and children’s playground. The opening of the garden is in conjunction with the Food Action Initiative supported by Seattle City Council, which promotes the ongoing improvement of public health.