Wisconsin Food Forests is a project of Madison Traffic Garden. Do not let our beautiful website fool you: we are a fledgling grassroots organization. Every year, we plant three food forests for nonprofit organizations. These food forests are supported by donations, sponsors, and fundraisers. We have been busy! We are finishing our last installation and wanted to explain each new food forest for this, our first full year of operation.
I was excited driving to the Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability. I had heard about The Farley Center for years but had never been there. Because of Covid 19, I drove separately and met Emily at the site.
The Farley Center, which is dedicated to socially progressive change, community partnership, sustainability, and ecological justice, is a complex and lively place set in a beautiful valley near Verona.
Emily and I were joined by Seth Riley, Farm Manager, and Ian Aley, Farmer, to install our Basic Starter Kit for a food forest. The Basic Starter Kit adds to a food forest of hazelnuts and other edible woody plants that Ian had planted in previous years, as he has a particular interest in perennial crops.
Dane County’s only farm incubator, the Farley Center is also nature sanctuary and green cemetery. The Farley Center works with beginning farmers and promotes organic gardening and farming through education and land use.
The Farley Center started the farm incubator in 2010, expanding on the community gardening projects supported for 15 years on the land of Gene and Linda Farley. Now in its tenth year of programming, the farm program has transitioned to a collaborative farm model. As part of their collaborative farm, aspiring market farmers are supported with land, tools, education, and marketing assistance. Training takes place while maintaining full respect for the cultural crops and practices of the growers involved. The growers cultivate a variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs, including many Latino and Asian specialty crops. The farmers sell at farmers markets, CSAs, grocery stores, and local restaurants.
The work installing the food forest was hard but satisfying. Emily and I worked for two days to complete the installation. Seth was as excited about our progress as we were. He stated, “As Farm Manager I take care of the Farley Center grounds and provide support to the farmers in our program. Our food forest has enhanced the landscape of the Farley Center and will be a great attraction for visitors. Students who visit us range from elementary to college classes. We also host summer camp groups and postgraduate students too. Often they come to learn about the food system and sustainable agriculture.”
“Berry picking is always the highlight of our student tours! We hope the food forest will inspire others to grow more perennial edible plants and make our world greener.”
We hope so, as well, and look forward to monitoring the food forest over the years.