Food Forests in Mount Rainier

by the Mount Rainier Tree Commission and the Green Team

Do you know where your food comes from? Most of the food we eat is grown in a monoculture, needing the constant use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Even organic veggies are grown as a single crop. In the wild, by contrast, nut and fruit trees provide shade for berry bushes, climbing vines, perennial herbs and vegetables. The soil is continuously nourished, teeming with life, holding moisture, storing carbon, and providing nutrients to the plants. A cultivated food forest, the world’s oldest form of land use, mimics the growing conditions of a woodland ecosystem.

In Mount Rainier, several years ago, fruit-bearing trees and a pollinator garden were installed at 37th Street Park (at Otis Street). This spring, a new food forest came to life at 31st Street Park (between Taylor and Upshur Streets). These public park projects have been initiated by groups of volunteer residents and supported by the Mayor and City Council. Instead of dividing the land into traditional, individual community garden plots, volunteers cultivate the food forest together and invite the public to harvest what is grown. The Green Team and Tree Commission steward the park, with the participation of other volunteer residents.

We hope to achieve harmony between humans and the rest of the natural world, rather than attempt to grow bushels of produce. With that goal in mind, three efforts are underway. First, the space is being transformed from lawn to a natural wooded environment, with opportunities for observation and interaction with nature for children and adults.

Second, the plantings are mainly native species. These plants provide sustenance for humans but also for birds and pollinators. The City of Mount Rainier and many of its residents encourage native planting in our yards and public properties, creating a native plant network to help sustain our part of the natural ecosystem.

The third effort is education. All plants have labels identifying them, and upcoming signage will provide further information on the plants and planting concepts. A website provides still more information on plants and home gardening, as well as links to additional resources and updates on the park’s progress.

Please visit and enjoy Mount Rainier’s food forests. For additional resources and updates, visit  https://mtrainiermdfoodforest.org. For information on the Mount Rainier Tree Commission and upcoming meetings, visit http://trees.20712.org/.

The Mount Rainier Green Team meets on the second Monday of each month virtually or in the Community Room at the Police Department from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. All interested citizens are invited to attend. For more information, meeting agendas and minutes, and an up-to-date calendar please https://mountrainiergreenteam.org or email mtrainiergreenteam@gmail.com.