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These 'edible cities' turned parks into orchards where people are free to pick whatever they need

'This is about taking away as many barriers as possible to create public food access, whether somebody wants a single apple or an entire basket.'

These 'edible cities' turned parks into orchards where people are free to pick whatever they need
Cover Image Source: Andernach.net

In the city of Andernach, Germany, anyone who lives or happens to be in the town of 30,000 people is encouraged to pluck and take whatever they want from the fruiting trees and bushes in the town center. The town, which sits in the Rhine River Valley, is among the growing number of "edible cities" across the globe. Speaking to The Washington Post, organizers revealed that since launching the initiative in 2010, there has never been a problem with people taking more than they need. Irrespective of whether someone grabs a single pear or a bag full of potatoes and artichokes, there is more than enough produce to go around every year.



 


"Many here are very proud when you talk to them about our edible city," shared Bettina Schneider, city team coordinator for the Edible Cities Network in Andernach. The 29-year-old revealed that Andernach’s public gardens and orchards have also inspired other cities in Germany and throughout the European Union to follow suit. Today, the Edible Cities Network—a group of about 150 cities worldwide with fruit trees and vegetable gardens in public places for anyone to access free of charge—is funded by the European Commission, the executive body of the E.U.



 

According to Schneider, the land that was converted into fruiting gardens and orchards in Andernach was previously overgrown and unkempt. In contrast, today the town's medieval moat is covered with peach, almond and pear trees. Vacant spaces near schools have also been transformed into community vegetable patches. Marisa Pettit, a coordinator for Edible Cities, shared that "every partner organization in the project receives funding from the E.U. budget to carry out their work." Several cities have also received funding for what Edible Cities calls "living labs, which are green spaces where residents can hold community events and develop their own plans to help their urban gardens to thrive and produce bountiful harvests."



 

 

"Public green natural spaces in cities are incredibly valuable, and even more so as temperatures rise and cities become more densely populated," said Ina Säumel, a principal investigator for the Edible Cities Network. She explained that Edible Cities' goal is to encourage people to get involved in their urban parks instead of only thinking of them as passive places. Many cities in the United States have also launched similar projects. There are public lands from Seattle to North Carolina where people are welcome to pick and take from fruiting trees and bushes.



 

While Detroit has an urban farming movement, Philadelphia has food forests and Atlanta and Los Angeles are home to edible community projects. Smaller cities such as Bloomington in Indiana and Hyattsville in Maryland also have fruit trees and vegetable gardens that can be accessed by anyone. "Anyone can get whatever they want, when they want it," said Lynx Bergdahl, a community organizer at Bountiful Cities, the nonprofit that helps manage the Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park in Asheville, North Carolina. "This is about taking away as many barriers as possible to create public food access, whether somebody wants a single apple or an entire basket."



 

In Seattle, the Beacon Food Forest recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as a diverse community garden. "We have seven acres to work with and we've used about half that so far," explained Elise Evans, one of the project's volunteers. "To create something from a blank hillside was a big deal. Our harvest truly offers something for everyone and it's based on trust. People take what they need and are fed for free, and that's an empowering feeling."

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