On a hot summer day in 2016, Shana Hostetter (the Hub’s lead designer), Dan Schenk (one of our Advanced PDC grads) and I strolled a grassy savannah-like area of Viles Arboretum in Augusta, Maine. Dotted with sculpture and surrounded by some lovely specimen trees, the south-facing “bowl” we toured seemed ideal for one of Viles’ new projects: a food forest!
Tracy Weber, a Viles Volunteer trained in permaculture design, and Mark Desmeules, Viles Executive Director, shared some of their thinking with us:
“The Viles Arboretum wants to inspire people with the possibilities of local sustainable food production, educate our community about how it can be done and then encourage people to replicate this system in their yards and in public spaces. We aim to show that providing food for ourselves does not have to and should not deprive other living things of food and shelter. The Viles Arboretum has a reputation as a destination for learning, respite and connection with the outdoors. This, along with its history as a farm, makes it an ideal location for this project.
The Food & Forest Project will begin as a 1 acre demonstration plot designed with permaculture principles to integrate trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals into a food ‘forest’. Permaculture is a system of design that takes into account the whole ecosystem when designing for food production by harnessing the assets of a landscape such as aspect, topography and water. This permaculture plot will serve as the site of and jumping off point for numerous community collaborations and educational opportunities. We envision a fenced in plot for annual vegetables and additional community garden plots. There will be berry production and an expanded orchard managed organically. A food “forest” of edible shrubs and trees such as walnuts, persimmons, hazelnuts, blueberries and elderberries will provide food for people, pollinators and other wildlife.”
In addition to this great vision from Tracy and Mark, other members of the region’s agriculture, permaculture and “sustainability” community have been involved, including Mid-Maine Permaculture group members and many of our own PDC grads.
The Resilience Hub, having been engaged to help with the design of the site, suggested doing as much awareness-raising and “participatory design” as possible, because our experience suggests that these activities not only strengthen the quality of the resulting design as well as help interested community-members get involved early on.
Last week nearly fifty people turned up at Viles for a viewing of INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective and to hear a little bit about the project. The first draft of the food forest design was on display as well! The Resilience Hub is currently incorporating feedback and working on the final drawings to be delivered in a couple of weeks.
If you would like to get involved in this project at Viles Arboretum in Augusta, Maine, contact us and we would be happy to connect you with Tracy or Mark. First stages of the install are on deck for this year!