Food forest comes to life in Ramsay

An urban food forest is taking root in the middle of Ramsay and the public is being welcomed — even encouraged — to reap the bounty.

This project is not what most people imagine when they hear the word forest. Rather than a field of trees every nook and cranny of dirt and grass available in front of the historic Dominion Bridge building and Caffe Rosso has been planted with pear trees grape vines different varieties of berry bushes edible flowers and leafy vegetables like arugula spinach and kale. The resulting patchwork of green space that holds an impressive number of plants amidst cafe tables sidewalks and even the parking lot.

Vera Ilnyckyj of New Urban Development which has its offices on the site says the company is planning a mixed-use development on the 11-acre site and wanted to make it more appealing. “As part of that we’re looking to beautify and enhance the site because basically we’re in a pretty industrial area” she adds.

A gardening neophyte herself Ilnyckyj called on the Leaf Ninjas a group of garden design and installation consultants who specialize in permaculture. “One thing led to another and we started talking about putting a food forest in there” she says.

On August 25 New Urban and the Leaf Ninjas held a “permablitz” inviting members of the community to come out and help plant the forest and install pergolas seating areas a flagstone path wicking planters and more (see the video at the video ( leafninjas .ca ) .

Ilnyckyj says the food forest is for anybody who wants to simply sit and enjoy it or to pick and eat the food.

“The whole intent is to build something in an urban setting that is edible and sustainable and brings people together” she adds. “I’m super pumped just to see stuff growing.”

Luke Kimmel of the Leaf Ninjas says the forest is eco-friendly and sustainable as well as appealing and should be relatively low maintenance. He explains that the design fills all the layers from the bottom up using plants that will help each other grow enrich the soil and out-compete weeds — from the white clover groundcover to the chocolate mint to the gooseberry and Evans cherry shrubs to the pear trees (and yes you can grow pears in Calgary).

Kimmel says the project is a great way to show people what can be done in urban areas as well as to research and gain information on cold climate food forestry as an alternative to large commercial farms. “We’re losing literally tons of topsoil around the world every year…. The food forest approach is actually one that builds soil… while growing food in a sustainable way” he explains. “It’s only going to become more important in the future.”

Despite being planted in late August the garden already had an impressive amount of fast-growing leafy greens by late September. Plans are in the works to increase the number and diversity of plants next spring and to possibly hold more community events and get kids involved. “One thing I really love about this project is how interactive it’s been with the community” says Kimmel.

The New Urban food forest is located at 803 24 Avenue S.E. in Ramsay.