Community food forest finishes final touches

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A forest designed as a food free-for-all will continue its development on Saturday during the third Food Forest Blitz.

Kenton Zerbin, who designed the forest, says the blitz should finish the final touches on the forest, which will provide free organic food for the community.

“When you have over 30 people that’s like having an excavator,” he says. “It’s been amazing working with the community and with people who are really passionate about it.”

The day will kick off at 10 a.m. with construction on the food forest. At lunch participants will hear Zerbin give a short lecture on permaculture and the features of the forest.

So far the forest has built up a fairly diverse food repertoire, including gooseberry bushes, red currant bushes, haskap berries, saskatoon berries, plums, apples, comfrey and more.

“We do ask though that people pick only what they can eat,” he says. “We will have a lot of food coming out of this space.”

The St. Albert food forest started developing last year headed by an unofficial group of urban agriculture enthusiasts.

“Ultimately the food forest is a way to create a more sustainable city,” he says. “This was really the St. Albert urban agriculture group looking into what a public edible space would look like.”

The food forest is located across from the St. Albert grain elevators and is around one acre in size. It currently sits on city-owned land and is stewarded by Arts and Heritage, which also oversees the grain elevators.

Jill Cunningham, who’s organizing the event and is part of the unofficial association of urban agriculture enthusiasts, says the forest came together through a partnership with Zerbin and Arts and Heritage.

“I think we’re all just like, pinch me this is just such an awesome partnership, because we all value community, knowledge and skills. We’re also coming at this from a different angle.”

She says the best part has been how the community has rallied together to make the forest become a reality.

“This went from a fantasy to a vision to a discussion, and now it’s becoming real. It’s really great,” she says.

The food forest has been designed to retain water from rain and snow in order to make the forest more self-sufficient. Zerbin has also designed the forest in order to make sure all the plants get the same amount of sunlight.

“Usually the limiter is sunlight,” Zerbin says. “As soon as you put in a tree, you’re not putting your tomatoes under it. So you would design your species in spatially so everything gets the sunlight it wants.”

He says the forest has a south-facing slope to allow even exposure to the sun.

During the blitz the association is looking to finish pathways built from recycled concrete, as well as a brick patio built in the shape of an infinity sign that wraps around two oak trees.

The blitz will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/2030846867142887/

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.