Volunteers take a moment to admire the planting and soil work that was done on Tofino’s new Food Forest on Nov. 20. The project is led by the Tofino Community Food Initiative, with contributions made by a long list of local businesses. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly news)

New community food forest gets planted in Tofino

“It’s a place for the community to get involved.”

Young worker bees and volunteers planted a new food forest at the Wickaninnish Community School in Tofino on Nov. 20.

The low-maintenance garden plot features a herb spiral, edible flowers, apple, fig, and plum trees, a variety of greens, and roses. Leah Austin from the Tofino Community Food Initiative said, in a few years, the garden will be so prolific that there will be lots of food for everybody.

“It’s a place for the community to get involved. The entrance will be along the sidewalk so we’re encouraging the community to take it on as their garden as well. Hopefully people will go in there and enjoy the harvest of the garden, but also to weed it and water it,” she said.

Business partners Louise Rodgers and Georgina Valk from Tofino Urban Farm Co., an organic waste recycling service, donated 40 buckets worth of compost to the sustainable food source project.

“I think this is a perfect example of where we want to be. This could be happening anywhere and everywhere. You don’t need that much space to make it work. Every open gap there should be a food forest or a patch of veggies or berries,” Rodgers said.

She hopes the food forest inspires people to get their own gardens going.

“Everyone’s end goal should be compost bins, rain catchment system, and a veggie garden.”

School garden caretaker Dan Price-Francis helped spread the soil and plant the trees and vegetables for the new food forest.

“I think it’s pretty sweet for the community to have this space. I think we’re hoping that it creates desire to have more spaces like this,” Price-Francis said.

“Seeing all the kids get into it is cool. They are the next generation of gardeners. I’ve noticed in days when I’m in the garden with the kids that they really take ownership when they’ve been working on it. And they seem to really care about it. They don’t want anything getting messed with,” he said.

Austin told the Westerly that the school chef is training to do food preservation. She said learning opportunities could include canning for the older grades and dehydration for the younger ones.

“We are hoping to really connect the kids with where your food comes from and then how to prepare it as well because that’s the next step,” said Austin.

She has more exciting features planned for the food forest as well.

“In the late spring, we will plant a bean tunnel so the kids can play in. Eventually we are going to make it a space where people can come and sit. We’re going to have a nice little bench.”

Anyone interested in pitching in to help the food forest thrive is encouraged to contact tofinolocalfood@gmail.com.

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