London neighbourhood launches fruit guild, expands food forest
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It won’t be enough to feed a city, at least not this year.
But that’s just fine with organizers. They know this type of project takes a long time to grow.
Volunteers sowed some of the first seeds this weekend on what’s been dubbed the Crouch Fruit Tree Guild — a plot of land at the end of Dillabough Street anchored by three fruit trees.
Once blooming, the fruit will be free for the taking, a project made possible through Sparks! community grant funding from the city.
The guild picks up where a project started last year left off.
Volunteers banded together in spring 2012 to start the Carolinian Food Forest, the first of its kind for London and a short walk away from the new fruit trees in the Thames River valley.
“We are bringing food production back into the city,” said Jessica Robertson, a committee member involved with the project since the idea was first pitched to the city in fall 2011.
In many ways, the plots draw from the city’s past, recreating the ecosystem that once covered London.
“We took a look at the site to determine what was there, then made a big spreadsheet that was vetted by horticulturists and, finally, the city,” Robertson said. “We have planted wild plum, several variety of cherry shrubs as well as hickory, oak, and white oak.”
To date, more than 600 trees representing 40 different species have been planted in the food forest. The land already had a healthy dose of black walnut and apple trees from when the area was an orchard between the 1920s and 1950s.
As the forest grows and matures, Londoners will be able to take food for their own personal use. The group will offer workshops teaching people how to identify trees and shrubs that have been planted along with how to harvest responsibly.
“It is one thing to know that I can eat it, but collecting responsibly is a big thing to know,” Robertson said.
While food production is one of the main goals, the deeper goal is education and community involvement.
The group will be working in the food forest today from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to help.
At a glance
— Several workshops and volunteer opportunities are planned around the Crouch Fruit Tree Guild and the Carolinian Food Forest in South Branch Park.
— Visit londonfoodforest.blogspot.ca for a full look at what’s coming up in the next several months.