TulsaPeople August 2016

Page 18


People, places and other things Tulsans love

Forest of possibility The Tisdale Food Forest provides healthy food and jobs in north Tulsa. by BRIA BOLTON MOORE


TulsaPeople AUGUST 2016

Valerie Grant


o the average driver cruising along the L.L. Tisdale Parkway, it looks ordinary: trees on the side of a highway. But the half-mile of vegetation on the east side of the parkway just north of downtown is more than branches and leaves. The trees are part of the Tisdale Food Forest, a joint project of the Brady Heights Neighborhood Association and Up With Trees with far-reaching objectives such as noise reduction, beautification, food and education. The idea was born when Nathan Pickard, chairman of both the Tisdale Food Forest committee and the Up With Trees education committee, read a book called “Restoration Agriculture,” which discusses how to sustainably grow perennial food crops such as fruit trees. He began to ask, “What if?” What if there were a food forest in Tulsa? In his community? Six months later, in April 2015, volunteers planted about 500 trees, including pecan, plum, mulberry, cherry, apple and pine trees. Up With Trees donated 40 loblolly pines, and other donors paid for the fruit and nut trees. Up With Trees has a license agreement with the City of Tulsa to plant trees on public easements such as the land where the Tisdale Food Forest is located. City officials approved plans for the food forest, and Up With Trees agreed to maintain the area. This kind of partnership is beneficial to both the community and the municipality because public easements can cost cities a lot of money to maintain, Pickard says. Soon after the trees were planted, a Brady Heights neighbor became interested in a Flow hive, a

Nathan Pickard is chairman of the Tisdale Food Forest’s six-member committee, which meets monthly to discuss fundraising opportunities, maintenance, volunteer needs and teen jobs. Up With Trees is responsible for mowing and weed-eating the area. beehive where honey is extracted by a crank. Invigorated by the possibilities of adding honey to the forest, neighbors invested in the hive together, and recruited a local beekeeper who already has five hives in the area. The bees produced so well that the food forest committee hosted a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to use the honey to provide an entrepreneurial experience for teens. The three-week campaign, which concluded in May, raised $6,845. The money will be used

to purchase jars, pre-pay the beekeeper, pay the Kickstarter participation fee and pay teens to fulfill orders of the “ultra-local honey.” The honey will be available for purchase in August at the R&G Family Grocers mobile grocer. In addition to the fruit and nut trees and honey, the forest now has grapes, raspberries, blackberries and sweet potatoes, which also will be sold to north Tulsa citizens via R&G Family Grocers. Providing nutritious food is a cornerstone of the Tisdale Food Forest. It’s located in a food desert, an area

in which residents live more than a mile from a grocery store. Engaging youth in north Tulsa has always been important to Pickard. He says he remembers watching teenagers grow and sell bell peppers from the Brady Heights community garden in 2008. “I think the fun thing was that the youth had never eaten those vegetables, but when they saw them growing, they wanted to try them,” Pickard says. “Then they were amazed at how they tasted.” Brian Parker, president of the Brady Heights Historic District Inc. and a food forest committee member, says he has quite literally watched the food forest idea take root over the past year. The forest borders his backyard. “It’s about taking something that is throw-away space and finding a new use for it — a very productive use for it,” Parker says. “A well-functioning food forest can actively be a source of food in communities that are located in a food desert. “Every time I drive anywhere else now, we’re always pointing out, ‘That could be the next food forest. That could be the next thing that engages the people in that immediate community with learning about food production and being involved in that beyond the weekly grind of going to the grocery store and picking pre-packaged meals.’” In fact, the Tulsa Health Department has already received a grant from the American Planning Association to explore future food forest opportunities. Pickard says he and local groups are eyeing a stretch along East Pine Street and the Osage Prairie Trail for the next potential location. tþ