Communities across the country are following a growing trend of swapping out their ornamental grassy lawns for more useful products – fruit, vegetables and herbs. USM is doing the same, with help from alumnus David Homa ‘06.
In the spring of 2013, Homa worked with USM to implement a food forest garden on the Portland campus. Located outside of Payson Smith and Luther Bonney Halls, the USM Food Forest Garden is a self-sufficient woodland ecosystem based on the principles of permaculture. The garden is part of several initiatives managed by the program for Sustainabiltity at USM, which works across all campuses, departments and disciplines to reduce environmental impact.
Building an Edible Paradise
The benefits of resilient food systems and habitats like USM’s garden are far-reaching, according to Homa, who runs the ecological landscaping business Post Carbon Designs.
“Permaculture principles can help mend our issues of drought, resource depletion, hunger, and climate chaos,” said Homa. “Permaculture builds in the nutrient and water retention, mulching, pollination, insect deterancy, and balance.”
Homa noted that the garden is also beneficial for birds and insects.
“The food forest garden mimmics a young forest,” said Homa. “This allows for areas where birds and insects can take up residence and contribute to the system. The garden is managed very lightly, thus creatures have the chance thrive and not be disturbed by mowing and soil disruption.”
Prior to implementing the garden, students, staff, faculty, and community members were invited to a food forest workshop to understand the basics of permaculture, plant guilds, and plant and animal interactions. The following week, dozens returned for an open garden installation, work party and pot luck.
Ripe for the Picking
Two years later and with spring in full swing, the USM Food Forest Garden is sprouting rhubarb, sorrel, dandelion greens, peashrub blossoms, herbs, crabapples and apples.
The public is welcome to stroll through the garden and pick their own snacks of fresh fruit at any time during the spring, summer, and fall.
How Can You Get Involved?
If you’d like to pitch in and help maintain the garden, contact Emily Eschner.
Students interested in getting involved in other sustainability initiatives can become an EcoRep. EcoReps are part of a student environmental group that focus on sustainability efforts such as recycling and waste reduction, biking and alternative transportation, alternative energy and energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, pollution and stormwater, and sustainable landscaping. Students can join the EcoReps in a volunteer capacity or as a paid work study. Click here to learn more.