You’re probably well familiar with forests––grassy, rocky terrain, that peculiar smell of rotting wood, and maybe the fact that you can’t walk in one blindfolded without bumping your cranium against bark every few seconds. You’re also likely acquainted with food––maybe you’ve tried to eat some not too long ago. But I doubt you’re aware of what a food forest is––I wasn’t, at least before I decided to write this article.
Put simply, a food forest is an artificial forest in which different varieties of food are grown. The particular food forest with which we are concerned today is located in Atlanta, and it’s actually the biggest one in the United States. It was constructed on the remains of a pecan farm, which was originally supposed to be converted into a residential townhouse zone. When those plans were canceled, the city’s Conservation Fund stepped in and bought the land in 2016, and with the help of a US Forest Service grant, the local municipality, and several different NGOs, the once barren fields now teem with more than 2,500 pesticide-free edible and medicinal plants.
Atlanta’s new food forest aligns nicely with its goal to bring healthy food “within a half a mile of 85% of [the city’s] 500,000 residents by 2022.” The government is hopeful that the forest will act as a critical stepping stone in its overarching battle against food insecurity. Says Michael McCord, a certified arborist who helps look after the forest, “Access to green space and healthy foods is very important. And that’s a part of our mission.”
According to recent reports, the food forest is also helping to permeate a sense of community throughout Atlanta. More than 1,000 volunteers are working to maintain the forest, which is certainly no easy task––but it just goes to show how dedicated and hardworking the people of Atlanta are, and how much time and energy they’re willing to spend to make a positive impact.
“It’s really a park for everyone, says Smith, a local councilwoman who helped raise support for the project. “Every time I go there’s a community there who respects and appreciates the fresh healthy foods. There’s a mentality there that people know to only take what they need.”