What is a food forest and how does it work? A food forest is designed like a woodland ecosystem that substitutes edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals and uses permaculture as a design system for sustainable human habitat. Many diverse and co-habitating edible plants help build soil, attract pollinators and keep out weeds. A food forest is intended to be low maintenance, self-maintaining and self-fertilizing once established. See how food forests work. Food forest principles have been used in traditional and indigenous ways of life, for thousands of years. We anticipate the Hiawatha Food Forest would incorporate true food forests in some areas and more traditional park uses combined with edible landscaping in others.
Are there any other projects like this? Yes! Numerous cities have launched food forests, public orchards or related initiatives. A small food forest is being planted at the 12 acre Frogtown Farm site in St. Paul this spring with over 30 fruit trees. And a permanent installation by artist Fritz Haeg at the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden, titled Foraging Circle, 2013, features edible plants and a geodesic dome structure - the sculpture garden is part of MPRB’s parks system.
We are proposing the largest urban food forest that we know of. We anticipate the Hiawatha Food Forest would incorporate more open space and mixed recreational areas than some of the other public food forests.
Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville, NC contains more than 40 varieties of edible fruit and nut trees.
What does racial equity in a park look like?
We support this campaign to increase racial justice in the Mpls Park System: Parks and Power Video
Minneapolis has recently ranked last or close to last in racial equity measures and does not appear to be moving forward. We know our city can change course and become a leader in racial equity. The MPRB included racial justice goals in the recent Urban Agriculture Master Plan. This is a good step. We call on the MPRB to implement a racial equity analysis for all new projects including this one, and to engage in deep collaboration with communities of color early in the planning process.
How would the park contribute to the City's Climate Action Plan and improve local resiliency?
- Food forests contain a variety of perennial plants with deep roots that help take carbon out of the air and put it in the soil.
- Food forests and natural landscapes require very little energy to maintain.
- Eating food grown 10 blocks away requires a lot less energy than eating food from California.
- Turning off or greatly reducing the volume of water pumped out of the area would save energy and millions of gallons of groundwater a year.
How much food would be produced? A LOT!! With the return of the wetland to Lake Hiawatha we are not sure what the acreage of dry land will be. Examples of food forests on other sites demonstrate that they can grow a lot of food, and they grow more productive with time – a wonderful gift for future generations. More on this soon...
In the News Read this excellent article in a local paper about the Hiawatha Food Forest proposal. Minnesota Public Radio coverage of the most recent Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) community meeting about the golf course water issues.
Many community organizations could utilize and help maintain the park as part of their programming.
- Minneapolis Public Schools
- Local food shelves
- Youth programs
- Gardening groups
- Neighborhood associations
- Cultural organizations
- Conservation associations
- Who else??
*Giving Tree Gardens and Urban Forage Winery have already promised to donate 100 fruit trees and assistance with maintenance if the project goes forward.
Hiawatha Golf Course - Background Wild rice, fish and edible plants once grew in abundance where Minnehaha Creek meets the lake on its journey to the Mississippi River. The Dakota people thrived on this bounty. In 1929 the wetland surrounding the lake was drained to make way for the Hiawatha golf course. The course sits about two feet below the level of Lake Hiawatha. Twelve retention ponds have since been built to hold water and six pumps run constantly to empty groundwater into Lake Hiawatha. In June 2014 historic floods forced the course to close for most of the season. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded more than a million dollars to fix the course, but this is still an insufficient amount. In September 2015, the MPRB hosted a public meeting to discuss options for rebuilding the golf course. Instead the MPRB explained that any planning would be on hold until the water issues at Hiawatha Golf Course were better understood. That evening citizens in attendance learned that the pumps were dumping ground water into Lake Hiawatha at a rate of about 1 cubic foot per second. This amount is more than seven times what the course is allowed to pump under its irrigation permit from the state Department of Natural Resources. It’s possible a decision to discontinue golf at Lake Hiawatha will be made. It’s also possible the golf course’s back nine will be eliminated. Either way, parkland may open up for new, bolder land uses. Read a summary of the DNR's assessment.
Up-to-date MPRB communications concerning the golf course land, including announcements for upcoming public meetings, can be viewed on the park board's current projects page. You can also add your comments to this MPRB survey regarding the groundwater issues at the golf course.
The ground water is discharged into Lake Hiawatha here.
Historic flood of 2014. Photo: Erdahl Aerial
Historic flood of 2014. Photo from Star Tribune