Seattle Creating Massive Edible Forest Filled with Free Food

By Jill

Taking the urban garden to the next level, Seattle, Washington has officially broken ground on a dedicated seven acre area of city land set to be converted into an “edible forest” that will produce free food for the city’s residents and visitors, human or otherwise.

According to the Beacon Food Forest’s website, the project’s mission is “to design, plant and grow an edible urban forest garden that inspires our community to gather together, grow our own food and rehabilitate our local ecosystem.” The perennial permaculture forest project, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., will eventually be self-sustaining, much like the way a forest in nature works. Creating the self-sustaining environment is reliant upon the types of soil, insect life and companion plants placed strategically within the environment.

Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest, located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, will provide an array of edible fruit-bearing plants including apple, pear, persimmon, chestnut and walnut trees; and edible berries such as blueberry, lingonberry and raspberry.

The project, which is already underway, is set to take several years to fully develop the seven acre plot just 2.5 miles from downtown Seattle. After aggressive outreach efforts by the Friends of the Food Forest community group to secure the plan were successful, the innovative planting initiative is underway securing permits to create the nation’s first “food forest.”

Not only will the edible forest provide free food to anyone with access to its bounty, but it will also provide healthy fruits and nuts, which are an important part of every diet and can often be unaffordable for families.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: justinmaier


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  • Patty Tanji

    This almost sounds too good to be true. I look forward to following this project’s progression to the first berry picking. Thanks to whomever are the visionaries behind this idea. Would love to learn more about how it got started. Well done!

  • Chris

    I am entertained to think what this will cost.
    I have a private mission where I have been transplanting fruit and nut trees that have been planted in my garden by red squirrels to a “common land” area nearby, to provide free food trees for everyone.
    It costs nothing but my time, which is free!

    • Hi, Chris! My neighbor and I do the same. We bought some land in a lovely mountain valley in Spain and for over 10 years now we are keeping the land absolutely chemical free. We plant nut and fruit trees, beech and oak trees and slowly the animals are coming back to help us! We also take cuttings and simply stick them in some soil in the surrounding mountains, it’s all free land and one day, it will be just like a giant edible mountain!

      I reckon there are many out there that also quietly do the same as we do. Together we’ll make it!

      Love from sunny Spain!

      • Jemma

        Sounds lovely! Do people know that they can freely take food? Most property laws don’t condone such activity. Maybe a sign would help.

  • Thank you so much, Jill, for this great article! It must be the the absolutely best news for 2012 and beyond! I hope many cities will copy the idea, it is so great. I can just imagine how they will organize herb walks and harvest walks and keep on planting as well as bonding the community.

    I will pray for this project to be successful always and I will also pray that many more will follow!

    • Carter Hawke

      Less praying, more planting

      • Rosa

        Planting is Praying! So the more your heart opens to the connection to the plant spirit..the more powerful the Prayer!

        • mrpositive


  • Jen Gelman

    How about blackberries? If Seattle had blackberries there would be no hunger in the metro area.

    • Glenn Reed

      Seattle has blackberries growing everywhere already. They are an invasive that thrive there….but are somewhat of a pest, though yummy when in season.

  • Alexander Supertramp

    Finally some good news. That would feed lots of people and animals. Hope this turns into a world fever.

  • Glenn Reed

    Fantastic idea and a return to the concept of a “commons.” Hope they replicate it in other Seattle neighborhoods and combine it with community gardens and such. This should be replicated in other cities and towns!

  • Shiggity

    This’ll last about a week before it is turned into a wasteland full of beer cans and cigarette butts

    • Khaching

      My thoughts exactly …

    • Summer

      I was waiting for the one negative comment. >_>

  • mrpositive

    Lets be positive. It will and can work.

  • Lynn Yale

    How is this maintained and how is someone going to stop the pilfers that come in and take more than a nibble as they go through? This sounds good on the surface but not real practical without those eating having some skin in the game. Our country tried this when it was first started yet those that weren’t participating kept eating and those that were working got tired of working to keep those not working. To the one that said if Seattle had blackberries were planted everywhere there would be no hunger. There are wild blackberries all over the place yet they go uneaten and they are only a seasonal berry so hardly sustainable. Who weeds the gardens? Who pays for the seeds? Who’s land is it? If that’s all the Cities then it’s hardly free is it as tax dollars are paying for it so it’s just back door paying for it for those that are paying taxes.

    Sounds good on paper….lets watch reality.

    • Anne Brandscheid

      People pulling together CAN make this project work! Not only is it a great concept but it can bring communities together which is so important to help mankind survive these times of corporate greed.

    • Irene

      We will never be able to stop greedy people from taking more than their share, or more than they need. However, if there was an abundance of these food forests throughout the cities, there would be enough to go around, even taking into account the greedy people of this world. As far as the tax dollars paying for this, that is true, but I would rather my tax dollars be used for something that can be eaten and shared rather than lawn and hedges. If this land was not used for food growing, it would still have to be maintained by tax dollars, and yet produce nothing useful.

  • I agree there will be huge issues with it being exploited. Further, 7 acres is in NO WAY a “massive forest”. It is pretty small for food production that is not intensively cultivated. Nature is wonderful about being naturally sustaining, but she does it more gently, and with lower productivity per acre because she produces food for more than just people within the space – forests attract animals, and they eat everything, including the food that people want for themselves, which means productivity drops by about half (this is not a problem unless you are counting on that food being available for people). This size sustainable wild food production will have a significant impact for usable food on perhaps 100 people per year. For the others, it will be gone by the time they get there. It may inspire them to grow their own, or it may discourage them into thinking it does not work.

    I’m VERY in favor of wild sustainable food being encouraged, but community ownership of such really just never works, because eventually those who are willing to do the work get tired of doing it for freeloaders.This will eventually either be destroyed by greed, or will become a benefit only to a selected few – who become a form of elite – completely destroying the initial concept. A locked gate at night, and a guard at the gate would be necessary from the outset to prevent exploitation. That is just sad… but it is the reality of the world we live in.

    The real way this kind of thing will work, is when people start implementing edible landscaping in their own yards, growing foods that do well in their climate in their back yards, letting edible fungus thrive for harvesting in their lawns, and growing sprouts, microgreens or herbs in their windowsills. When they REALLY want clean and wholesome, and sustainable food, they’ll stop talking about it or expecting the community or government to do it for them, and they’ll just DO what they can for themselves.

  • Encee

    Another one for the “Why I Love My City” Column :)

  • Linda

    How incredibly smart, every state and country should do this, it will help everyone. Love it.