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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Food Forest

Local Food Systems Continue to Grow in Central Illinois

A healthy local food system is like a healthy ecosystem, requiring a diverse array of partners working in collaboration to create resiliency and a high level of functionality. The University of Illinois Extension local food systems team – Bill Davison, Brian Lambert, and Amanda Christenson – is excited to announce two exciting new local partnerships that will greatly enhance the local food movement in central Illinois.

First, the local food team is partnering with the Town of Normal, Savanna Institute, and Midwest Agriculture Restoration Services to create the first urban "food forest" in a public park in Illinois. A food forest is a form of urban agroforestry designed to create a sustainable food production system by working with nature rather than against it. Unlike commercial food production, which segregates plants into monocultures and relies on significant chemical inputs, food grown in a food forest thrives on the diversity of fruit and nut trees, berries, herbs and vegetables all planted together in one system. The diversity, high density, and three-dimensional structure work together to take advantage of ecosystem services such as self-mulching, fertility, and pest control. The end result is a virtually self-sustaining, edible landscape open to the public for harvesting. It will provide a unique opportunity for folks of all ages to directly experience the delightful textures and flavors of freshly harvested food, such as raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, apples, pears, hazelnuts and chestnuts.

The food forest will be planted about a mile northeast of Illinois State University on Town-owned property. The location is easily accessible from a nearby bike trail and will be within walking distance of the Mulberry School and Normal Community Activity Center. This project is in the planning stages. Interested community members are encouraged to participate in the planning and maintenance of this project.

Second, the local food team is partnering with the Normal Public Library to create a "seed library," which will kick off with a September 11 introductory program in the library's new café space from 6-8 p.m. A seed library is a community-building resource that provides free seeds to people who would like to grow regionally adapted heirloom seeds. A card catalog will be stocked with vegetable and native plant seeds, and people can come in and check out seeds, grow them in their gardens and yards, and then save and return seeds to the library. The seed library will also include nuts, bulbs for vegetables and flowers, and rootstock and scionwood for fruit trees.

At the September 11 event, the local food team will also give away free garlic bulbs.

If you are interested in helping with either the food forest or seed library, contact Bill Davison at University of Illinois Extension at (309) 663-8270 or