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Planting a food forest: Proposal for Springside Park would help connect people to the land and to food

PITTSFIELD — An edible landscape, dappled with fruit, vegetables and nuts. That’s part of a vision for a food forest in Springside Park.

A local permaculture design company has applied for a $25,000 grant to support the idea. Now through April 19, people can vote daily for that idea, one of hundreds of proposed projects, on the Seeds of Change website.

“Food isn’t just something we eat,” reads the grant application. “It’s our history, culture, family and memories. It is our medicine and fuel.”

A food forest is a gardening technique that imitates a woodland ecosystem by bringing a number of crops that can help support each other into one area. The vision for a 1-acre plot of Springside Park includes edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.

Matt Lamb and Jay Allard, owners of Berkshire Earth Regenerators, applied for the grant. They have studied the park for six months and developed a food forest plan on land near the Springside House.

“My goal is to get as much diversity into the plan as possible,” Lamb said. “There’s so many different things we are trying to correct with this project.”

He said the additional plantings in the proposed food forest would improve stormwater runoff and help cut down on carbon emissions. He said the plan could be expanded to as much as 40 acres of the park.

Allard said their concept for the park could yield thousands of pounds of food, which would be distributed to area residents and community organizations.

“A lot of people in the community are having a hard time getting food at all,” he said. “This is a very local situation it keeps food from traveling far distances.”

In addition to being a source of fresh food for the community, the forest would be used as a living classroom, where people learn to garden, and it would provide some job opportunities.

“As people take interest in these plantings, they become more invested in their community,” Allard said. “We want to be able to reconnect people with that.”

Springside has become a place for education in addition to recreation.

Regular garden workshops and interpretive walks are offered from the spring through fall. There’s also a weekly membership-based learning program at the park’s greenhouse.

Joe Durwin, a longtime resident of the Morningside neighborhood, and a parks commissioner, said the proposed plan is overdue.

“A food forest at Springside Park is an extraordinary way to honor a robust heritage of agriculture at this very historic park site, while updating it for the needs and expectations of neighborhood residents and other park users in the 21st century,” he said in a written statement.

Last year, the city received a grant from the Kresge Foundation to study how growing food could help revitalize the Morningside neighborhood.

Named Morningside Up by the city and community partners, the project envisions a “community-led food system.” That means residents would be involved with food production, processing, distribution, and consumption as well as waste management, said Jessica Vecchia, director of Alchemy Initiative, which is managing the Kresge grant and working in partnership with Morningside Up.

Allard and Lamb said they are excited by the impact the food forest could have.

“This will help educate people on how we can use public space to do greater things for ourselves, our families and our community,” Lamb said.

The food forest concept is among nearly 600 ideas submitted by groups from across the country to Seeds of Change. A total of $310,000 will be awarded to groups by the California-based organic seed company.

The top 50 vote winners advance to the finals in April. And grant winners will be announced May 8, according to the website.

The Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market, another of Alchemy’s programs, was awarded a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change last year.

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo.,503487

On – 05 Apr, 2017 By Carrie Saldo

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