Food Forests Coming to Denver
By Creighton Hofeditz:
When I took my first permaculture course in 2011, I couldn’t imagine a major nonprofit in Denver having a position with “permaculture” in the title. Food forests, even just fruiting trees in general, were a nonstarter in most conversations around urban planning and development. And yet, a little over ten years later, I’m the new Director of Permaculture and Perennials for Denver Urban Gardens–and the tide seems to be shifting around edible perennials in urban areas.
DUG is partnering with The Giving Grove, a national nonprofit based in Kansas City, to fund and implement five mixed-species food forests around the Metro area. These will be within or adjacent to existing DUG gardens and include around 75 fruit trees, with at least double that number of companion shrubs. Each site will be maintained by “Tree Keepers”, volunteer stewards who will help to make sure the trees survive into maturity and start producing fruit. These sites will involve regular community input and feedback; there is no cookie cutter approach.
Denver Forestry will be donating trees and they’re interested in the potential for wider fruit tree planting. DUG also plans to broaden the search for sites beyond existing gardens. Do you have connections to a space that could be used for a mini-orchard or food forest? We envision a huge network of interwoven, food-producing perennial landscapes, yielding thousands of pounds of food per year at each one.
Perennial polycultures is the more academic, precise, and perhaps prosaic word for the imaginative, evocative “food forest”. However, I think it’s important to think in those terms, especially in Colorado, where the Garden of Eden vision of food dripping from every branch doesn’t really apply. With our food forest initiative here in Denver, we’re hoping to provide a uniquely Colorado-adapted approach that can be emulated around the region, while demonstrating the need for site-specific design.
You can reach Creighton Hofeditz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The 11th annual Denver Permaculture Design Course will be held in partnership with DUG over six weekends, May - Oct. Get $50 off tuition by using the code “COGardener”.)