Kitchener-Waterloo

Guelph volunteers create food forest in University Village Park

Volunteers have planted a food forest - complete with fruit and nut trees and edible plants - at University Village Park in Guelph.

'We hope that it serves as an educational tool,' organizing committee member says

Reaching out for an apple while on a walk may be possible in the near future in Guelph's new food forest. (CBC)

Imagine walking through the park: The birds are in the trees, the sun is shining and suddenly; you're hungry.

Well in the near future, you will be able to reach out and grab something to eat in a newly-created park in Guelph.

A group of volunteers have created a demonstration food forest in University Village Park in Guelph, just south of Stone Road, and in mid-May planted fruit and nut trees as well as edible plants.

"This is pretty huge, not only because we're growing with the natural flow and energy and rhythm of the earth, we're kind of mimicking a natural woodland ecosystem in a way where we're growing food that's desirable to human beings and other wildlife," said Ashley Thackaberry, one of the members of the organizing committee.

"That in itself is pretty revolutionary because generally, our food is grown in a way where we're kind of working against this natural flow that's happening and this is why we need to use things like pesticides and fertilizer."

Forest cost $15,000

The basic cost for the forest was $15,000, which includes the saplings, plants and a basic path of limestone throughout the forest.

Money was raised for the project through donations and partnerships with local groups, like Transition Guelph, which connects projects with donors, as well as Guelph Urban Forest Friends and Trees for Guelph.

Thackaberry said they hope to raise money money for signage, benches and a tool shed.

This map shows where the demonstration food forest is located, south of Stone Road in Guelph. (Guelph Community Food Forest)

Over the years, the amount of volunteer work needed is expected to decrease significantly, Thackaberry added.

"Once it's established, once the trees are resilient enough, then we won't actually need as much human input and it will kind of take care of itself," she said.

Educational tool

The park is accessible to the public, although it will be awhile before anyone can eat anything in it.

Thackaberry said they hope the food forest will inspire others to grow their own food and also start a conversation about food security.

"We hope that it serves as an educational tool," she said, adding she'd love to see classrooms visit the site.

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