Are ‘Edible Landscapes’ the Future?

Imagine, you’re strolling through an urban public park in Aberdeen, admiring the trees and flowers and avoiding the gulls. Your stomach starts to rumble. You reach up and pluck a few Irish Peach Apples from the tree overhead, and munch them as you continue walking. Later, perhaps, you stop to help a group of Cultivate volunteers dig up potatoes from the our root vegetable garden, to be placed in crates and cycled to the nearby food pantry. Is this the park of the future?

A growing movement of gardeners, food activists, landscape designers, urban planners and others is encouraging us to think “edible” when it comes to public green space and that’s certainly our philosophy. Flowers are pretty, they say, but if those blossoms become apples or courgettes, isn’t that even better?

“Public food landscapes can transform public spaces from being passive scenes to view or experience at a relatively superficial level,” says Joshua Zeunert, a landscape designer and professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney who studies edible public spaces.

By “public food landscape,” Zeunert means food-producing land fully accessible to the public that is intended to be used for public benefit. This could include community vegetable gardens, public parks with “edible forests” of fruit and nut trees, public university campuses with agriculture projects that benefit the community and neighbourhood centres with food-producing green roofs.

We’re piloting this initiative in Aberdeen with our Edible Garden at St Fitticks’ in Torry, which will link recreation, education, and food-growing all in one and will hopefully serve as an example to other areas what is possible through the power of food.

This isn’t a unique idea, so we have a lot of friends and partners we’re working with to showcase best practice and to create a model for decision makers and local leaders to champion.