How one ‘forest’ aims to eliminate a food desert in Palm Beach County
Mike Kane knows what it’s like to wake up hungry with minimal funds to purchase nourishing food.
“You’re not going to go buy an organic apple. You’re going to buy the cheapest thing in the store,” Kane said.
As the founder of Palm Beach Farm Yards, a nonprofit urban farming and landscaping organization, Kane has a mission to improve the health and well-being of communities in South Florida to ensure residents don’t go throughout their day hungry.
Kane and many others with the same mission came together on Oct. 26 to create the Food Forest at Henrietta Bridge Farm. In actuality, the “forest” is more of an orchard, but the goal remains: provide fresh produce to low-income communities.
Henrietta Bridge Farm, located in West Palm Beach, is surrounded by Coleman Park, Historic Northwest and Pleasant City neighborhoods, which are all burdened by a food desert.
With assistance from The City of West Palm Beach Office of Sustainability and over 100 volunteers, the farm is now home to more than 50 fruit trees. Henrietta Bridge Farm founder Stewart Bosley believes the fruit forest will add to the work he has already done.
“What’s most important to me is that the community benefits,” Bosley said. “Once [the trees] start maturing…it’s going to be a good compliment to what I’m doing.”
Sustainability Program Coordinator Elaine Christian has high hopes for the fruit forest and the future of the community.
“[Residents] can just come and go and have this fresh fruit available to them at all times,” Christian said. “[We want to] provide an easy way for them to get fresh fruits, especially since there’s not many places around here to get [it].”
Community Greening, an urban forestry nonprofit, also contributed to the fruit forest over the weekend. Co-founder Mark Cassini believes the project will not only improve the conditions of the community’s environment but the physical and mental health of its residents as well.
“You don’t really think about it but…trees reduce energy use…They clean the air, they improve home values and…provide fresh fruit,” Cassini said. “There’s a disparity in the benefits of trees.”
In the next year, the forest is predicted to provide the community with an abundance of fresh produce such as apples, avocados and star fruit.
“You do something to feed the community, but also you’re capturing carbon. So, you’re stacking functions and it ends up having a really big impact,” Kane said. “The more of this stuff we can do, we can change the world for the better in such an amazing way.”
By Rachida Harper