New Food Forest In Indianapolis?

By Greg Buck ~ Ripple Effect Social Magazine

Generosity is typically highly ranked means to wellness in the lists of healthy activities that I encounter. So why not do something that almost indubitably improves society and the ecosystem?

I propose growing a food forest. The Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, WA is inspiration for this article. BFF was founded by a group of students concerned about nutrition, waste, their community and the ecosystem. They are developing a seven acre an edible landscape on public land that resembles a natural forest.


We can make such a powerful action in Indianapolis too. Consider Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. The authors speak of three facets of making change. They are the Elephant, the Rider and the Path.

–          The Elephant is the emotional, energetic or motivational facet.

–          The Rider of the Elephant directs with very clear plans and deals with the various emotions.

–          The Path, in other words the situation, needs to be easy and simple. An example the Heaths mention regarding a weight loss project in a community is the promotion of choosing 1% milk over whole milk – rather than advancing a vague and complex message of live healthy.

1The Elephant, or passion, in Indianapolis is largely reflected in a developing local food movement. The passion for local food, on the part of hundreds and maybe thousands of people, drives much of the successes of Basic Roots Community Foods, Green Bean Delivery, Indy Food Coop, and Growing Places. The nascent Pleasant Run Grocer and Indy Food Council also reflect the drive to improve the community with local food. Moreover, local food matters are prominent at our local universities, with gardening projects associated with IUPUI Office of Sustainability and Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology. These examples of organizations just scratch the surface of the passion residents of Indianapolis have for locally raised food.

4Riders, a least potential Riders, are present. Consider the Indy Food Council. The IFC asked Indianapolis residents about what direction to take for a “food system that provides everyone access to healthy and nutritious food, enhances ecology, and creates meaningful economic and civic opportunities.” That’s a good start. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has a hand in landscape planning for Indianapolis and a large network of influential people. The local Industrial Workers of the World chapter intends to advance food forests. I could go on with more possibilities in Riders, but will stop there.

By the way, be they more like Elephants or Riders, Indianapolis has many residents who have a high level of skills in gardening, many of whom can be located through Permaculture Activist, Indiana Organic Gardeners Association and Indiana Nut & Fruit Growers Association.

2Regarding the Path, or easy approach, our own Kay Grimm probably has something to say since she resides at a food forest, Fruit Loop Acres, that could be used as a model – just 21 blocks east of Meridian Street. Furthermore, Beacon Food Forest’s project provides an example to tweak to suit Indianapolis’ situation.

To arrive at definitive plans on large scale food forest project, there is a need for people who are adept at negotiation. Indy Food Council displays a willingness to negotiate residents’ expectations. Peaceful Grounds’ Linda Proffitt has a high level of motivation to feed the people of Indianapolis that would support negotiation. Maybe the biggest influence in advancing large scale food forests is City of Indianapolis’ Office of Sustainability, which perhaps could help clear hurdles from both public and private sectors, after all the office is an initiative of Mayor Greg Ballard.

3Land is in reach, be it private and or public land. Consider the large chunk of land at owned by Anthem Insurance (seized by the constitutional power of imminent domain, by the way), the many acres of agricultural land, Phoenix Farm owned by Joe Werle, and the numerous vacant urban lots, many of which are for sale through the Tax Sale, Surplus Sale and eventually Renew Indianapolis. Also, we have parks and golf courses with huge lawns that have potential as well. Projects might even mimic Beacon Food Forest by locating these sites on land that is protected out of concern for water quality.

The Elephants are chomping at the bit. The Paths have to be cleared of a few obstructions. The Riders are awaiting or developing plans, and other future Riders are yet to consider such projects.

I predict that in the next ten years there will be started at least one food forest on over two acres and at least four smaller projects. I hope there will be many more so as to feed all residents of Indianapolis. I intend to create a food forest on one to six lots. I urge readers to choose a path of wellness and generosity that includes social and ecological betterment, specifically by participating in the creation of food forests in Indianapolis.

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