Is it time to get rid of traditional parks and create edible spaces? Paolo Bona

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When you hear of the term ‘edible forest’ or ‘food park’ your mind may start to think of something like Willy Wonka where you could break off a piece of a park bench and it would actually be delicious chocolate. That would be amazing but it doesn’t exist today. Edible parks do though and they are growing in prominence.

An edible park or edible landscape is actually a typical park in a city with one key difference. Most parks we know today have great lawns for playing games or large trees to provide shade. Some have beautiful flowers that smell fantastic or simply look beautiful. This is the most common form of park and it has become the norm across the world. Recently people are starting to question this approach. 

They argue that we could replace many of the trees and plants that are grown in parks today with those that produce food. A public park is a passive scene where people don’t really interact with their environment. They can look at the trees and smell the flowers but that is really it. Some experts want to change that.

They want to make the parks a place that locals go to volunteer and help with the plants and trees and in return, they get to reap the rewards of fresh, locally produced, organic foods. There are a number of reasons for this change.

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The main reason is that people are increasingly unhappy with how global food is being produced. Large companies dominate the world of greens and although they produce healthy food they often do it in an unsustainable way or using many pesticides and chemicals on the land. The coronavirus has also contributed to the growth.

The lockdowns that took place during the coronavirus highlighted how dependent we all are on global supply chains. When the country shut down many people were left without the ability to purchase basic necessities. Even when shops were open the same foods were not available. This led to an increased desire to grow foods close to home.

A similar desire has not been seen since world war two. Back then these edible spaces were common. They were called victory gardens. The war effort took such a toll on government finances and the working population that people were asked to grow some of their own food at home. These victory gardens were a huge success yet when the war was over they died out.

Edible spaces are a key part of any solution in introducing sustainable food practices. There are many large parks across the world that have embraced this phenomenon and more are coming. In a bustling city of Malaysia, there is a park called ‘Edible Park’ where there are fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs. Visitors can pop in for cooking classes or buy produce. Volunteers can take whatever produce they need. The local government how the park doesn’t just help the food supply system it strengthens the entire community and brings people closer together.
In Le Havre, France, a new food patch has popped up in front of City Hall in response to the coronavirus. It is an enormous garden that is producing different foods every month. A solution brought in to tackle the food supply system issues. The food is free for all and those with knowledge of gardening help out and even leave signs that advise those with less knowledge of what is ready to eat and what needs more time.

This idea of edible spaces has no real downside. The one thing it relies on is the Tragedy of the Commons. The idea that when a group of anonymous people works together many will not do their part. If everyone does their part and helps out with these food spaces then there will be plenty of food for everyone to go around. If they don’t it will fail. If there is an edible food space near you, make sure you volunteer. If there isn’t why not try to start one?

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