GULFPORT, Fla. - Many Bay Area neighborhoods are no stranger to community gardens, but a Gulfport resident’s dream nursery has blossomed into a community food forest.
Crea Egan created the Gulfport Food Forest in Clymer Park. She says it is a beautiful marriage of art, ecology and community food space. Its mission is to create a sustainable food forest of edible and medicinal plants for Gulfport residents and visitors.
With permission from the city, Egan planted 22 fruit trees along Clymer Park Art Walk and can’t believe it’s turned into the edible forest it is today.
"This place it’s so special. So many people from the community get involved and help it grow. And what it grows into is food that you can easily pick as you’re walking down the path," Egan shared.
The Gulfport Food Forest is home to a variety of fruits and vegetables including bananas, tomatoes, mustard greens and collard greens.
"People need positive experiences of seeing food grow from the ground up because, so often, people give up after one experience of not succeeding," Egan stated. "So often people don’t realize, especially kids, don’t realize what it’s like for a tomato to ripen on the vine."
In addition to being a sustainable food source, the Gulfport Food Forest was also designed to be a wildlife enhancement project. It is a habitat for birds, wildlife and pollinating insects. It provides shade, increases biodiversity and serves as a learning laboratory for permaculture in Florida.
The food forest is located in the heart of Gulfport and is a public space. It’s a recreational corridor and a food corridor that links up with the Pinellas Trail, which stretches from St. Petersburg to Dunedin, giving the Gulfport food forest plenty of room to grow.
Eagan says the Gulfport Food Forest is one of the first in the United States to be created on public land for food security and a learning lab.
"I personally hope this set an example for not just residents to mimic this kind of system as a model in their own yard for sustainability reasons for themselves but also that it stands as a model other cities as well," Egan explained.
Egan hopes other cities around the country see the Gulfport Food Forest as a living example of what they could have in their community.
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