Uschi, a friend from Austria, sent me a really cool story yesterday about a group of intrepid permaculturists in Seattle who have successfully convinced the city fathers to let them build the nation’s first food forest on a seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill area.
I’ve written about food forests before, but the Seattle food forest concept is the first of its kind in the U.S. as far as I know and will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees, raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears, pineapple, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, lingonberries, herbs, lettuce, vegetables and more.
More importantly, Seattle’s new edible wilderness will be available for “public plucking” – that is, anyone who wanders into the food forest is welcome to forage to his or her heart’s content.
Margaret Harrison, the lead landscape architect on the project says that the innovative concept has never been tried before in a public park. She is working on construction and permits now and expects that the food forest will break ground later this summer.
The food forest concept is just one of the many innovative new farming techniques being explored around the world today. The concept is based on a super-intensive permaculture theory that takes into consideration soil, companion planting, insects, worms, and all of the earths other little beneficial critters in order to create a perennial and self-sustaining “food forest” — much like a forest in the wild.
And food forests aren’t the only innovative new farming concept. John Robb at Resilient Communities had a great post just yesterday about the economics of aquaponics – another self-sustainable farming technique that combines fish farming (aquaculture) and hydroponic farming (plants grown without soil in a bath of nutrients provided by fish effluent).
Analyzing a three-tier commercially-focused aquaponics system from a company called Sweet Water, Robb estimates that the entire operation could generate up to $46,000 per month in produce sales and fish sold into the local marketplace.
Incidentally, if you’re of a certain age and disposition, the whole idea of “hydroponics” will probably conjure up hazy images of clandestine grow lights, a basement closet, a college apartment, and stacks of old High Times magazines. The concept has come a mighty long way from those clandestine days.
Just last week, I had the opportunity to spend some time with friends here in Panama who live in a very remote, completely off-grid, solar home right smack-dab on one of the most beautiful beaches in the southern part of the country. The owner had just completed a greenhouse hydroponics concept that utilized coconut fibre, which is simply ground up coconut husks, as the “soil” or growing medium.
The system consisted of about 24 stacked Styrofoam containers that are fed a combination of water and organic nutrients on a timer system throughout the day. He expects to have a variety of homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs within weeks to supplement visits to the grocery store and market that are over an hour away.
Here’s the point. Many folks probably still think that all of this is airy-fairy, hippy-dippy, earth-mother nonsense. It isn’t. It’s the next wave of the Green Revolution and it’s going to be very big. Recall that the super grains from the Green Revolution back in the 1960’s had a huge impact on global food security and likely stopped some serious famines in their tracks.
Like anything though, the Green Revolution had big downsides as well. The bad news was that the huge reliance on grain/cereal monocultures and a massively centralized distribution system of getting food to population centers hundreds or even thousands of miles away wreaked havoc with the world’s topsoil while destroying our understanding of, and relationship with food (I actually read recently about some grade schoolers who were grossed out eating chicken with bones because their only understanding of chicken was of the mcnugget variety.)
I predict that the next Green Revolution, the Revolution that is happening right now, will be a return to localism, self-empowerment and self-reliance. It will put a lie to the myth that individual families are incapable of feeding themselves with quality food produced in their own backyard or their own greenhouse.
The reason this is happening so quickly now is because, like in many other areas, the Internet is unleashing knowledge at a furious pace. Best practices related to gardening, farming, growing, etc. are no longer locked up in monopolistic death stars like Monsanto and Cargill. They are shared instantaneously with anyone who has an Internet connection.
In other words, the next Green Revolution is already here…