The third breakout session I attended was with the delightful Jessica Roder Roberston, owner of Wildcraft Permaculture out of London, Ontario. I had met Jess volunteering in September 2012 at The Carolinian Food Forest fall planting and looked forward to hearing about how the project was going.
Jess shared the timeline from conception to phases of implementation from 2011 through to May 2014. Part of what makes this project unique is not only is it an edible food forest on public land (very rare in Canada and the US) but it is comprised only of species native to the Carolinian Forest, a lush forest much richer in diversity than the Boreal Forest I grew up in Southern New Brunswick.
I recognized some species (strawberries, fiddle heads) but others were completely new to me in 2012, like paw paws and butter nut.
Jess narrated the evolution of the original design to what is currently growing on the site. There are many challenges in a large, public site and there has never been a Carolinian Food Forest planted EVER before. Given the highly experimental nature of food forests in general and this particular project’s constraints I think it is a success.
Jess’s biggest challenge was the social systems not being in place to maintain the project. That certainly resonated with me. I know I’m far more patient with plants than people and my biggest challenges are often working on group projects. I offered during the Q & A that many people who are drawn to food forest gardens are often non-conformists, we don’t often play with others and can sometimes lack the experience of working on collaborative projects outside of our paid work.
At the end of the session I recommitted to putting energy into this really cool project. If you are interested in helping out and can get to London occasionally please do invest some time is this awesome initiative.