They are popping up in many parts of the city
Fresh strawberries in September? Sure, if you are picking from the Delki Dozzi food forest.
It is safe to say the food forest, which was planted in May 2017, is thriving. Even in September, there are berries on the vine, herbs sprouting from the spice spiral and plenty of bees to help pollinate next year’s crops.
“I think it’s doing great,” Carrie Regenstreif, executive director of Sudbury Shared Harvest, said. “Way better than I expected – I was honestly a little skeptical. When you saw it the first year and there’s just a bunch of plants with woodchips around them, you don’t really believe it’s going to fill in like this.”
The 8,000-square-foot forest is open to the public and Regenstreif said nearly every time she visits, she sees someone harvesting.
The forest contains several types of apple, cherry and plum trees; Saskatoon berries; ever-bearing strawberries, which produce fruit until the frost hits; gooseberries; haskaps; sea buckthorn; asparagus, which will be ready in 2020; rhubarb; currants; and three varieties of raspberries, in addition to other species. Everything in the forest is drought-resistant. In fact, the food forest is designed not to require watering after the first two years.
The plants are also winter-hardy and can take -40C temperatures. As Regenstreif likes to say, something may kill the crops, but it will not the cold. (If you decide to visit the food forest for a sun-warmed apple, please be careful. Regenstreif said this year’s crops are full of caterpillars).
“We take it for granted we can walk into a grocery store and buy whatever we want,” she said. “We don’t really know in the future, with climate change, if the sources will be stable. You notice it sometimes, when cauliflower goes up to $8 per head. That means something happened in California or Mexico, and that is going to happen more and more.”
Sudbury Shared Harvest is planning on establishing at least one food forest per ward. Most are smaller than the one at Delki Dozzi, but so far the organization has planted forests in Ward 1 (Delki Dozzi), Ward 2 (Anderson Farm), Ward 4 (Elm West playground), Ward 6 (at Ecole Secondaire Hanmer) and Ward 8 (Twin Forks). Most are about 1,000 square feet.
“The idea of going smaller is so that we can make more of them,” Regenstreif said. “The idea is that we would add two or three of these each year and in about five years we would have one in every ward.”
There are plans next year to expand on what is already planted at the Chelmsford community garden. Regenstreif said in 2015, volunteers planted a few trees, so they hope to establish the Ward 3 forest there in 2020.
The forests rely heavily on volunteers and two summer students Regenstreif hired through a summer employment program.
“The Canada Summer Jobs program was such a huge boost for us this year,” she said. “The students we hired were fantastic. We had such limited funds for staffing this year, so having them with us all summer enabled us to do so much more than we could have otherwise.”
To date, Regenstreif said she has neither seen wildlife nor heard stories about intrusive bears.
“I’ve always maintained that bears prefer junk food to healthy food, just like most people,” she said. “Anecdotally, it’s what I’ve noticed.”
Aimee MacIntyre visits the food forest occasionally in between work and evening sports. With “an hour to kill,” she said it makes sense to seek out the tranquility and calm of the food forest. She had her e-reader in hand on Thursday.
“Why sit in a parking lot when you can go sit by plants and trees?” she said. “It’s gorgeous. It’s beautiful to look at and the fact it’s growing food is just wonderful. I like it.”
MacIntyre has actually introduced her children to gardening as a result of her visits to the forest and the community gardens at Twin Forks.
Sudbury Shared Harvest is planning a series of workshops. They were lucky enough to receive funding through the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors program, so workshops are free for those aged 55 or more and $40 otherwise. Workshop topics include plants as medicine; making herbal tinctures; sharing plants from the forest; basic care of fruit trees; pickling, making freezer jam, dehydrating and freezing; and planning your own food forest.
Regenstreif is especially excited about the workshop on transplanting strawberries.
“You can start with five strawberry plants and have a giant patch of plants after a year or two,” she said. “They will spread like crazy if you know how to properly propagate them and move them around and do things with them.”
Colleen Zilio is a board member with Sudbury Shared Harvest, and one of the seniors organizing the project.
“The New Horizons for Seniors project has allowed us to reach out to a lot of people who weren’t involved with our activities until now,” she said. “The workshops really serve two purposes: building food literacy skills and building our roster of volunteers who can teach those skills to others.”
To learn more about Sudbury Shared Harvest, to see a plant list for the Delki Dozzi food forest or to register for a workshop, go to sudburysharedharvest.ca.
705 674 5271 ext. 505235