How Food Forests Revitalize Vacant Lots into Vibrant, Active Community Spaces

As you all are aware from my previous blog post about me, I’m an active participant in building brighter, more inclusive communities with my educational endeavors in urban planning and development. Vacant parcels of land are often thought of in terms of development potential or the highest and best use of the land. The revitalization of similar land parcels such as in the picture below brings several opportunities for new life to the underutilized areas of the community.

thumbnail_20160913_181316You probably haven’t noticed too many properties like this one, but it is located in a neighborhood undergoing a shift in mindset towards active, healthy living and creating more engaging public spaces that bring people together for positive change. This is the perfect opportunity to plant a food forest.

The introduction of a food forest would increase the tree cover and introduce a variety of native plants across the city for long-term ecological benefit. The idea is to take a neglected parcel of land and turn it into a place where people can form partnerships, visions, and possibilities together. Studies show that planting trees and perennial shrubs reduces crime, improves neighborhood safety, and engages residents participating in community activities.

foodforestcolorThe sketch, at right, shows a depiction of what a public food forest could look like. The concept of providing food for all gives people more choices for what they eat and is something that adds value to their daily lives in discovering new, unique spaces in the community to enjoy. The transformation of this space allows people to meet their neighbors and become acquainted with each other providing the possibility for further collaboration on various projects. If we are not designing our cities for human activity and public health promotion, then what are we really achieving? Peace, prosperity, and happiness are all underlying themes in the design of public food forests. Food forests, if done right, can become centers of activity for the whole neighborhood while reducing crime and engaging people.

This post was written by Project Food Forest board member, David Heinhold.