Food Forest

Tree Farm Park

A visioning story by Chuck Estin and ad hoc Community Farm Education Group members: Demi Rasmussen, Marit Saltrones, Russel Lawson & Victor Cosby.

Tree Farm Park is fully planted and functioning now. The old M&E Christmas Tree Farm property was gifted to the City of Bainbridge Island under condition that it be open to the public, without added buildings and is not-for-commercial-profit. The donor suggested the name Tree Farm Park (TFP). It includes a Food Forest, Community Garden, Native Habitat , Public Education Center, and Park Stewards program.

We designed the site in a Charette with some of the top permaculture designers from the Cascadia Permaculture Institute and local community members. Guided by the permaculture design principles the site plan incorporated a large planting of edible and useful perennial fruit and nut trees, shrubs, vines and herbs and vegetables.

The plants used the permacultural organization pattern of plant guilds – associations of plants that work together in self-sustaining systems. The guilds were integrated into a Food Forest – a concept originated by Robert Hart in England – that has been adopted and researched throughout the world-wide permaculture movement. We were inspired by the 7 acre Food Forest on Beacon Hill in Seattle that received acclaim as the largest public food forest in the country. (http://crosscut.com/2012/02/16/agriculture/21892/Nation-s-largest-public-Food-Forest-takes-root-on-Beacon-Hill/ ).

When the trees were small and didn’t shade the area, vegetable gardens grew in the Food Forest. As the fruit and nut trees matured, the understory became more shaded and perennials dominated. Other beds were designed to receive permanent full sun. We planted diverse, regionally adapted permaculture plants, useable for propagating. Our propagation nursery is off-site to maintain the TFP in a park-like state, with only the minimum infrastructure needed for stewarding the plants, making it accessible to the public and providing self-tour and guided-tour education. We did extensive restorative Native Habitat in the wetlands ravine region that also provides propagation material for our nursery.

The public has worked with the supervision of the Park Stewards to develop and maintain the plantings. With high demand for Pea Patch gardens, we have hundreds of Islanders in the Community Garden program. Rather than the conventional Pea Patch system of each individual having their own bed, produce is shared from a whole-systems integrated garden – with crop rotation and vegetables organized so that they don’t shade or interfere with one another- applying permaculture principles for maximizing fertility, plant health and efficiency. The Park Stewards organize and supervise the community members, teaching them permaculture skills. The site is always filled with tours, workshops and work parties for organized groups, including K12 students.

Individuals and businesses in the community funded the project with contributions of time, money and materials. Participants in the Community Garden program receive garden produce. The remainder is traded for our local Life Dollars currency to support the Garden Steward program, with the surplus donated to Helpline.

Tree Farm Park has been the focal point that generated a learning community around ecological restoration, agro-forestry, sustainable agriculture and economic localization. TFP has become a famous agro-tourism destination, and the concept of combining Food Forests with Community Gardens has spread throughout Kitsap County. It was a perfect fit for the M&E site, the original intent of the donor and the needs of the community. It is an ideal partner organization for our Farm School at Johnson Farm.

Bios Design
design bylili estin