An Experiment in Sharing: Seattle Food Forest

Seattleites in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are participating in a social experiment. Can planting a shared food forest help bring the community together to grow food, rehabilitate the local ecosystem, improve public health and educate people about the environmental impact of food production?

The Beacon Food Forest is currently being cultivated on seven acres of public land in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. While community gardens are common in the northwest, The Beacon Food Forest is unique, as it is open and free for the public to participate in and enjoy.

Wondering what a food forest is?

“A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals make up the lower levels. The Beacon Food Forest will combine aspects of native habitat rehabilitation with edible forest gardening.” -

The food forest is also situated in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle, bringing hundreds of volunteers, visitors and community members from different backgrounds together to build this shared space.

Although many of the fruit and nut trees will take years to begin producing, many annual vegetables are already ready for picking!

While there are still questions being asked about how sharing this space and what it produces will work in the long run, my questions about this project come more from a gardening and animal rights perspective, such as how will they be fertilizing the trees? Sustainably or with animal inputs?

Shouldn’t the pollinators be volunteers (like the people who planted the forest) instead of animals or insects being brought in and kept on site?

Although the project leaders have promised to plant flowers for native pollinators, they are also keeping honeybees on site. Especially when a food forest is supposed to “mimic a woodland ecosystem,” keeping bees in boxes (where their honey may be extracted) seems very strange and unnatural to me. Although it is unclear if they will attempt to use the honey produced by these bees, this element of the project leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I say keep the forest, but not the bees. With enough diversity of fruits and flowers, bees and other native pollinators will come on their own if they wish to.




National Geographic

Beacon Food Forest

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper7 months ago


Michael Friedman
Michael Friedman7 months ago

Not to sound the produce safe? modern/urban man may not have the robust digestion as our scrappy ancestors had not too long ago.

DJ M.7 months ago

What a great experiment. Thanks for the article.

sharon b.
sharon b.8 months ago

It seems the author would oppose the idea because it is not perfect. I'm sure over time the people running it will make adjustments as the needs become known

Val D.
Val D.about a year ago

Really inspired idea that should be duplicated everywhere. Keep the bees! We need them!

tanzy t.
tanzy t.about a year ago

Great idea.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa1 years ago

Thank you

Angela l.
angel l.2 years ago

I hope Arizonans should plant more trees and edible greens like Seattle. People think that AZ is so hot and not enough water so everybody puts in desert landscape, like not enough dust and heat!!! AZ may have little water but there's desert plants and trees use so little and eventually if Az grows enough green then it will change the climate because the water evaporates into clouds and turn into rain later. At least this is how I remember what I'd learned in elementary class. Anytime anyone who's willing to make changes to improve the community for better health and environment is a good act of improving human's lifestyle and one's own peace. Gardening is therapeutic and if all the people is doing more good deeds will eventually bring the world to peace as peace comes from within of each individual. I hope more other cities follow or else I have to move to WA or OR. Good idea!

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

great ideas

Christina H.
Christina H.2 years ago

Absolutely love this article and shared it to my Facebook page. I work with an environmental group and my original vision for us had to do with something very similar to this. Thanks again!