Beacon Food Forest Celebrates Expansion of Edible Landscape

by Leija Farr

Glenn Herlihy, the co-founder of Beacon Food Forest, garnered a cheer as he announced the addition of 1.75 acres of land that will soon be overflowing with plants producing edible fruits and vegetables. Volunteers and supporters raised gardening tools to celebrate the added acreage, part of the second phase of the Beacon Food Forest. The land extends the growing space for the Food Forest and continues the theme that has marked the forest for years: community.

Herlihy and others conceived of the the idea of the Beacon Food Forest in 2009. Craig Lorch, a volunteer for the garden and resident of Beacon Hill since 1986, always saw potential in this once-vacant greenbelt that now overflows with squash, mushrooms, several varieties of flowers and strawberries.

“I knew this empty space needed to have something,” Craig said. “I was on board with this idea.”

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Volunteers and supporters celebrate the second-phase expansion of the Beacon Food Forest. (Photo: Leija Farr)

The Food Forest operates under ownership of Seattle Public Utilities. Organizers wanted this mostly edible garden to be as responsive as possible to as much community input and incorporation as possible. They held public feedback and brainstorming meetings in the beginning stages at El Centro De La Raza. Throughout the garden, they erected signs  translated into the most prevalent languages spoken in the neighboring areas. They planned ADA accessible trails. Their goal was to create a non-hierarchical organizational environment, where all were encouraged to indulge in the produce grown but leave enough for others. They held the first work party in 2012.

Organizers of the Food Forest make a point to educate participants on racial equity, particularly the fact that the garden and participants are standing on  Duwamish land. They want it to be known that this is a space for everyone, “no matter their age, experience, or background,” said Carla Penderock, community outreach coordinator for the Food Forest.

A few hours before the celebration, Penderock wandered through the Food Forest past the wavering scents of jasmine and tomatoes and on to the newly introduced beekeeping station. The beekeeping team harvested the first batch of honey a few weeks ago.

“That was really exciting,” Penderlock said,

During the celebration, multiple committee members stood in a circle and shared their palpable  thoughts and emotions for what is yet to come.

“Fundamentally it’s about putting resources back into the community,” said Andres Mantilla, the Interim Director of the Department of Neighborhoods.

In the older, established area of the garden, one section, nicknamed “Helix Garden” mimics a DNA structure when viewed from above.

Marla Martin read a poem she wrote: “Now imagine your veins, nerves, and capillaries. What design do you see? It looks similar to the roots of a tree.”

This work is deeper than the garden. This garden, in many ways and for many people, is home.

Feature Photo by Leija Farr: Volunteers tend to a garden at the Beacon Food Forest.