Mid Island Community Development Co-Op directors Ben Geselbracht and Larissa Coser put some finishing touches on the South End Community Food Forest in preparation for its official opening Friday (Oct. 21). The co-op partnered with volunteers

Mid Island Community Development Co-Op directors Ben Geselbracht and Larissa Coser put some finishing touches on the South End Community Food Forest in preparation for its official opening Friday (Oct. 21). The co-op partnered with volunteers

Nanaimo’s first food forest opens in south end

NANAIMO - Edible landscape transforms derelict lot on Haliburton Street.

Mattresses, discarded needles and an overgrowth of blackberries are being displaced by crops of fruit and vegetables.

Nanaimo’s first public “edible landscape” will be opened in an official ceremony Friday (Oct. 21) on a narrow, undeveloped lot at 364 Haliburton St.

The idea for the South End Community Food Forest came about at a South End Community Association meeting when the Island Crisis Care Society, which runs Samaritan House women’s shelter, asked for help to improve the safety and appearance of the lot, located directly behind the shelter.

Members of the Mid-Island Community Development Co-op, who attended the meeting, decided to take on the project and drummed up support from the city, other local community partners to clean up the lot, which was a hangout for drug users and overgrown with blackberries and strewn bed mattresses trash and discarded syringes.

“That area is probably the highest density for drug traffic. In terms of cleaning up that area and just not having a dump and a site where people are shooting up in and to have more safety right in front of the Samaritan House is a pretty big deal,” said Ben Geselbracht, co-op director.

Several work parties and an Art in the Food Forest Event in August cleaned up the lot and transformed it into public garden designed to be easily maintained by the community.

“We all collaborated to do this project and so there was a bunch of work parties and we slowly cleared the area and the brought in a bunch of manure and leaves and wood chips and planted out a ton of fruit trees,” Geselbracht said.

Plantings include apple, fig and plum trees, a medlar tree, blueberries and other berry varieties.

The species planted, mostly perennials, were selected for their edibility and ability to fix nitrogen in the soil to mimic the natural processes that would happen in the evolution of a forest.

The public opening ceremony event happens 4-6 p.m., with official proceedings starting at 4:30 p.m., with hot dogs, a bonfire and talks by representatives from government and city horticultural and parks staff and the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

To learn more about the project and Mid-Idland Community Development Co-op, please visit www.mycdc.coop.