What’s Cool About It: The Philly Food Forest rises out of what was formally a magnet for trash. Set in a quiet community where residents hang out on their stoops, it is a refreshing green space in a concrete deadlock. In its 5th year development, spawned by the Occupy movement, the forest is coming into maturity. Mulberry, apple and fig trees are fruiting, strawberries are sprawling and other annuals are springing up in the warmth of the sun.
It took time for this forest to become a space for local kids and adults to feel welcome. At first a group of “strangers” Marlon and his friends started the forest simply out of a desire to have fresh food. They aren’t on a pedestal or anything, just out to learn and experience what it means to grow something fresh. And share that opportunity with everyone who cares to walk into the forest.
Some of the awesome permaculture techniques they use besides mixing perrenials and annuals are the following: A rain water catchment at the apex of the property, hugel bed, green manure with comfrey and increase the edge with curvy beds. Additionally, they are using phytoremediation to clean up an area with a high lead content. Since its conception they have removed the plants developing in the area from the food forest to a disposal site. 5 years ago the level read at 800 ppm and now it reads at 650 ppm. Now that is pretty damn awesome! Once it gets to 400 they can grow all types a’ cool stuff.
Entering into a community where you don’t “belong” is hard. And Marlin pointed out that he wasn’t there to preach about permaculture. Instead, he was there because he wanted fresh food. He attributes the success of the garden to his personal desire to see it flourish. But also recognizes that his day in day out presence shows the community that he cares and in turn it allows the community to open up to him.
I mean gosh damn! We rolled up there and talked about how we were going to visit the food forest and everyone knew that Marlin was apart of it and spoke about how cool it was. Now that is called knowing and engaging with your community. Slow grow people. Slow grow.
The most important thing to know is that this oasis can be snatched away in a moment’s notice. They don’t own the land and this is something that affects most community gardens. The government could decide to sell the land to develops. But regardless, this space is a place of pride, excitement and tasty strawberries to kids and adults in the summer.
If you get a chance visit Philly Food Forest, see photo!