By: Emma Brown
On the outskirts of D.C., there’s a quiet little lot that makes for the perfect spot to lay out the picnic blanket and have a little snack. Except, there’s no need to bring your own food – those are foraged.
The Emerson Food Forest of Hyattsville is one of several of its kind in the DMV area. Boasting a variety of native plants, from persimmons to papaws, the “forest” is a public food source.
The site is a project of Forested, a local organization that seeks to redefine how we think about food production.
It’s no secret that our modern food system is in dire need of an overhaul. The world’s topsoil– a nonrenewable resource – is rapidly declining, contributing to erosion and less nutrient-dense foods. Reliance on pesticides like neonicotinoids threatens public health and harms much-needed pollinators. The over-abundant use of fertilizer has contributed to water pollution and fueled toxic algal blooms.
Forested offers an alternative. On their Bowie, Maryland site, founder Lincoln Smith created a large-scale foraging “farm.” Forested is on a mission to prove that “forest garden ecosystems” can “sustainably supply a large portion of all food and forest products people need and use for healthy living.”
Through their Hyattsville forest and other projects, the group encourages the deliberate reintegration of native food sources into urban community development – bringing food production to city dwellers’ literal front door.
Forested’s Bowie, Maryland site offers even more. There, Smith hopes to demonstrate that forest food systems can prove just as “fruitful” as mono-crop farming and produce similar yields.
The site is designed to maximize food production with as little human intervention as possible. Large fruiting trees line the property and are underplanted with berry bushes and shrubs. Kale and other vegetables form the lower ring – placed carefully on the western side of trees to ensure they receive adequate afternoon sunlight critical to their growth.
Plants and trees are left to grow in their natural habitat, sans the aid of watering, pesticides, tilling, or extensive weeding. Unlike mono-crop farming, Forested’s approach promotes a robust ecosystem that attracts beneficial insects – nature’s own pest control. The natural decay of leaves and other plant matter continually enriches the soil, virtually eliminating the need for fertilizer and preserving precious topsoil.
The curious can tour or volunteer at the site. To learn more or donate, visit Forested.us.
Emma Brown’s works in progressive politics. She was raised on a family dairy farm in Southeast Ohio, where she developed an interest in sustainable food production.