Category Archives: Local Food

A Food Forest Emerging in Augusta #Maine

Site of the future food forest at Viles Arboretum

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.

First draft concept sketch for the food forest at Viles Arboretum

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!

Lisa Fernandes, Resilience Hub Founder

Fox Field Food Forest November Update

FFFFlogo4.8We are pleased to report that we are making steady progress on the Fox Field Food Forest Project and the primary ADA compliant pathway will be installed starting during Thanksgiving week.  We will also get an “information kiosk” up to explain what is happening, since these initial steps might be confusing to someone who doesn’t know about the whole project!

Background: For those new to the project, the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization (EBNO) received funding in early 2014 to design and install a neighborhood food forest in keeping with increased urban agriculture happening around the city and to kick off the theme of “Edible East Bayside” (embedding food in the landscape in a variety of ways).  The City, The Resilience Hub and staff from Wright-Pierce have been working with EBNO all along the way.  It took some time to find the right spot (the eastern corner of Fox Field) and then more time to involve as many of the neighbors and neighborhood groups as possible.  And there’s always more of that to do!  But we have been committed to as robust of a participatory design of the Fox Field Food Forest as possible.

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Design session with the kids at Mayo Street this summer

Highlights of our current status:

  • Thorough soil testing was done and the site was found to be quite clean, with no remediation needed.
  •  First DRAFT drawing (FFFF ConceptualPlan 8.21), based on neighborhood design sessions, has been created
  • Primary path and explanatory kiosk going in now
  • This winter we will circle back with neighborhood groups for feedback on the DRAFT design
  • Working with the City to develop the stewardship and maintenance plan
  • Will create the final drawings at the end of winter
  • Doing some additional fund-raising to install Phase 2 of the Food Forest in the 2nd half of 2016
  • Start the installation of the rest of the Food Forest in the spring with neighborhood work parties, permablitzes and more!
  • So far involved parties have included EBNO (residents & businesses), Resilience Hub, Wright-Pierce, City of Portland, Root Cellar, Mayo Street, Portland Police Dept, Parks Commission, Study Center in Kennedy Park, Portland Housing Authority and some early conversations with the Muslim Community Center.  More of all of this to come….

Watch for more updates and the formation of a neighborhood stewardship team to help ensure maximum use and care of one of our new neighborhood assets!

Great old photo for perspective on the area.  Our site never had buildings on it, just playing fields.
Great old photo for perspective on the area. Our site never had buildings on it, just playing fields.

Fox Field Food Forest:  It’s more than just a garden!  It will be a convening place with edible landscaping, learning and playing opportunities, a social space, an oasis of ecological health and beauty in East Bayside for all to enjoy!

“Portland Connected by Nature” Launch Party

ImageA few of us attended the launch party for this new report last night at Mechanics Hall in Portland (which, by the way, is one of the coolest buildings in Maine and houses the first lending library in Maine).

The room contained a Who’s Who of enviro people from around greater Portland in order to celebrate the launch of this new report which does a pretty good job summarizing much of the good work happening around here. Great food from Rosemont Market helped lubricate the wonderful conversations set against a slideshow featuring people and projects highlighted in the report.

The Resilience Hub was honored to be one of the featured groups in the report, with our food system work getting special attention!

Thanks to NRCM for making it happen.

Now I’m curious about what the people of greater Portland would like to see next.

— Lisa Fernandes