By Carrie Regenstreif
A new non-profit organization called Sudbury Shared Harvest is finalizing plans to establish a community food forest starting this spring.
A community food forest is a carefully planned arrangement of edible, perennial plants, that is designed to mimic a natural forest. A natural forest doesn’t need anyone to maintain it and that’s the eventual goal with a food forest, although it will need a lot of human intervention (for the first few years, at least).
A food forest incorporates fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables. Plant species are chosen to build healthy soil and support other plants. Once established, the fruits, berries, herbs and other edibles will be available to the whole community.
A planning committee was established last spring. The committee includes representatives of Lewis’ Hardy Fruit Trees and Northern Wildflowers, plus other members with extensive experience growing edible plants in Sudbury.
After several months searching for a location in consultation with city staff, the group’s first choice was an area within Delki Dozzi Park. A public consultation was held in November 2016, with the vast majority of participants, and respondents to an online survey, in favour of the Delki Dozzi location.
Last summer, in collaboration with reThink Green, Sudbury Shared Harvest received a $37,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the project. The project is a pilot, intended to establish a small food forest and to determine the feasibility of establishing additional, similar projects over the next few years.
In October 2016, the group brought in Bonita Ford, an expert from Perth, who has led food forest projects in several other locations. Ford presented an educational workshop where participants learned about food forests and took part in planting a fruit tree guild. A guild is an array of mainly edible plants, chosen to support a central fruit tree, and could be thought of as a building block of a food forest.
At that time the planning committee met for the first time with Ford to initiate a planning process that has continued via teleconference throughout the winter. Committee members have spent countless hours doing research and discussing the pros and cons of various plants.
The planning committee is nearing completion of detailed plans for the project. The plan will transform approximately 4,000 square feet of lawn, located between the parking lot and the cycling track at Delki Dozzi, into an edible forest.
The food forest will include common edibles such as apple, plum, raspberry, and asparagus, as well as some that are not as well known. The latter are being chosen for a set of desirable qualities that include some combination of being native to the Sudbury area, cold hardy, highly nutritious, resistant to drought, able to fix nitrogen or likely to attract pollinators.
Although no species have been chosen based on appearance alone, the project is being designed with visual appeal in mind in hopes that people will be drawn in to enjoy the space and learn more about it. As the project develops, the group plans to seek additional funding for signage, seating and to offer a variety of educational workshops.
If you’re spring cleaning in your garden and have extra of any of the following to donate to the food forest project, please contact Carrie (contact info below): catmint (or catnip), chives, orange daylilies, hostas, oregano, rhubarb and wild strawberry.
Planting will begin in May, with food forest expert Bonita Ford coming back to Sudbury to supervise and to present several workshops on May 12 and 13. Workshops will be free for those willing to help out with planting and maintenance of the food forest. The group is also looking for experienced gardeners to pair up as “planting buddies” with less experienced gardeners.
As part of a long-term plan to increase food production skills, the group is also offering a workshop on basic fruit tree care on April 22 from 2-4 p.m. The workshop will cover general principles and techniques, including pruning (with demonstrations on young apple, cherry and plum trees), controlling insects, and feeding and watering.
There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions of the presenter, Ron Lewis, who has been growing fruit trees in the Sudbury area for 40 years.
The tree care workshop is $25 per person, with the location to be confirmed.
Carrie Regenstreif is executive director of Sudbury Shared Harvest, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating community health by connecting people, the food they eat and the land it comes from. Sudbury Shared Harvest supports people in gaining the knowledge, skills and resources they need to access or grow their own food in a way that enhances our urban environment. Visit the group's website at www.sudburysharedharvest.ca.
For more information on donating plants or attending the workshops, contact Carrie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 705-521-6717, ext.105.