Deliver Benefits to the Public

Agroforestry in urban centers benefit people and Chesapeake Bay


Lincoln Smith picking fruit from a mulberry tree. Forest Service photo.

BOWIE, Md. — District of Columbia Urban Forestry Administration and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments obtained a Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry grant in 2016 to establish a similar food forest in Washington DC. This new site will exemplify stewardship and interaction for urban citizens with trees, each other, and the local landscape.

The food forest is inspired by the success of a similar project in Bowie, Maryland. Imagine a forest garden, where the best of both farming and forestry combine to form an ecosystem that gives back to the land. Figs, pomegranates, pineapple guavas, mulberries, leafy greens, mushrooms and raspberry brambles grow and are harvested in harmony with shady canopies and a wide array of other edible plants, and the environment benefits from the forested landscape. The forest garden, a ten-acre demonstration site founded in 2011 by Lincoln Smith who designs forest gardens and teaches courses on production ecosystems through his organization, Forested, LLC.

Inside the rustic gate is an array of edible plants, both of the standard and unexpected variety. Oak trees make up a portion of the canopy, providing all of the traditional benefits of trees such as improving air quality, retaining water and providing shade, however they also supply a surprising staple: starch. In terms of production and space, acorns produce as much as or more food per acre than wheat. It is this kind of information that Smith hopes will get people thinking differently about food.

Helping Smith accomplish his goals is Michael Costa, head chef for the Washington, D.C., restaurant Zaytinya. Food Forest Feasts are held twice a year at Forested and feature dishes created from the forest abundance. Food forests provide a wide variety of sustenance in a small space, and hit that double mark of community space and environmental improvement. Given all the intertwined benefits, it is no surprise that many are excited to implement forest gardens into urban settings.