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Feature — by Teresa Kelly And now, for something completely different:

A Midwest Food Forest “The yield of the system is limited by our imagination....” Bill Mollison


hat would you think if you went to your favorite park and found that an orchard had been planted near that old oak grove? Or alongside the hedges of burning bushes and forsythia, rows of raspberries were trained along cables between t-posts and blueberries rimmed the clearing where you play catch with your children? And in the sunny spot below the retaining wall you see an attractively fenced oasis brimming with vegetables and herbs lovingly tended by your neighbors, a church group or even you? Your arrival is greeted with smiles and waves from others enjoying the park open space bordered by large fruit and nut trees adapted to our climate. Does this sound like Utopia? Or like a great idea? Or a foodie’s dream of how the world should be? Or something that will never fly? Ponder that while you enjoy that imaginary red ripe strawberry plucked from under the apple trees. In January, at the Kansas City Community Urban Agriculture (KCCUA) annual Farmer and Friends gathering, 150 people showed up to talk, share, brainstorm and plan ways to make our food system better. The group I worked with was charged with brainstorming ways to utilize public lands for food production. The Kansas City area has acres and acres of green spaces ranging from parkway esplanades to large expanses of city parkland that has the potential of feeding a lot of people! How do we go about utilizing this wealth of land? What challenges will we have to face? What are some creative solutions? A lot of people are not aware of the benefits of native species and the value of using some of the open space as urban farmland. As transportation and irrigation costs rise, so does the need to have access to local food sources. We learned about how creating fingers or ribbons of orchard plantings and community vegetable gardens could weave throughout the urban landscape along our boulevards and parkways. Shelter belts on public land would create environmental diversity and a source of food for neighborhoods. This potentially could alleviate pockets of the urban landscape referred to as food deserts.

Our group went to the core of the issue: Changing the perception of what a park (public land) is supposed to look like. Our biggest task would be to shift the common perception of a park. Parks are community gathering places. Typically a park is a public space with lots of lawn that is mowed and kept weed free with chemicals and landscaped around the edges and often includes a pond or grove of trees, sidewalks and playground equipment. Lots of costly upkeep could be reduced by creating environmental diversity that supports the community in many different ways. We recognized that not all citizens are aware of the benefits of shelter belts, community gardens and native plantings. We brainstormed about grass roots organizing and ways to educate policy makers and private citizens. Could we use the parks and recreation department educational program as a vehicle to deliver information? Could we start gradually introducing the concept by planting a few rows of fruit trees and shrubs like blueberries in a couple of parks? Is it really feasible to plant in boulevard esplanades? Are there school lands available for food production? What is the impact on the community? Are there success stories and resources from other cities that we could utilize? Maybe this is a great place to try an Urban Food Forest? What is forest gardening? It is food production that mimics the layering structures of a forest. From large canopy trees to understory to shrubs to ground covers, the forest with its diversity in structure and plants is self sustaining. The same technique is applied using fruit trees, vines and other perennial plants to create a food forest. The food forest generates fertility and uses less resources and labor than annual vegetable crops. Food forestry is not meant to replace annual food crop production. It makes a good addition to the whole food production picture. Perennial food production can include many things from fruits to herbs, vines and some varieties of vegetables. Forest Gardening has been part of the principles of Permaculture for some time. It is gaining mainstream attention as part of the Urban Agriculture movement. Yes public parks with grassy open space and playground equipment and picnic tables are a great part of our communities. Why not consider productive trees and food producing

Into the Kitchen — with Brett Boulé Vegan Enchiladas 18-20 small corn tortillas 1 16-oz. can enchilada sauce 1/2 c. white onions 2 pkg's vegan cheese, shredded (Daiya cheddar or mozzarella, or other vegan type) 1/3 c. black olives 1/2 c. red potatoes 1 jalapeño 1 c. baby spinach

shrubs as part of multifaceted use of some of the land? This whole concept of transitioning public lands from conventional parkland design to a more diverse and sustainable landscape is no small undertaking. The conversations are just beginning. We are lucky to have a local pilot program underway. KCCUA’s Daniel Dermitzel was inspired during a Permaculture course he took in 2008 at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. He has been exploring how to transition a traditional annual cropping operation to perennial food forestry ever since. With lots of research and local expertise and resources the concept is taking shape. A workshop will be taking place in early summer for those interested in exploring this “new” concept in food production. It is an opportunity to explore this idea for your community or for your own backyard! So back to the question…is this a Utopian vision? A foodie’s fantasy? Or some wacko idea that will never fly? Maybe, and in a growing number of communities that are mindful of limited resources and the importance of local food sourcing, the idea of an Urban Food Forest is taking root. Are we ready to jump out of the box and explore new ideas? Are we ready for something completely different in Kansas City? Resources: How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield for details on the local Food Forest Workshop. Permaculture-Food-Forest/ *Founder of permaculture- quote from Teresa Kelly writes about what she loves, gardens with the natural intelligences, cooks with passion, travels as much as she can and photographs it all. Her pet project was getting chickens legalized in Roeland Park, KS. Through her practice, Good Natured Living, she provides others information and experiences renewing the connection to self, community and the planet. She is married to the man of her dreams and has four beautiful children… and hopefully hens soon!

Combo #1 - potatoes, black olives, jalapeño Combo #2 - mozzarella cheese, onions Start by chopping all ingredients fairly small, then precooking some fillings such as potato and beans and keep them separate. Steam or soften each tortilla shell, fill with desired filling and a little cheese, then lay in ungreased baking pan. Choose a pan that is not much wider than the rolled enchilada so that it holds the sauce up. You can fill them with individual fillings or mix however you wish. THE KEY is to not overfill, therefore the enchilada will stay together when you transfer from wrapping surface to pan.


April 2011

Smother enchiladas in the sauce, then sprinkle cheese and some leftover chopped white onion over the top and bake at 400ºF for about 10 minutes. This can be a 100 percent organic meal if you buy accordingly. It can also be gluten free (using corn tortillas that contain corn, spices, lime juice and a little salt). It is also dairy-free if you use a vegan cheese. Do get one that "melts”. Some other possible fillings: Mushrooms Beans, refried or black Tomatoes

April 2011 issue of Eating Well in KC  
April 2011 issue of Eating Well in KC  

The April edition is filled with articles on optimal eating.