Kennesaw State professor of geography Vanessa Slinger-Friedman and Food Forest Manager Lorie Bonham hosted a walking tour of the Field Station and Food Forest on the morning of Oct. 22.
On the tour, Rhodes described the ideal Food Forest as an “internet of underground ecosystems,” with everything connected and working together in the same environment. The forest is currently home to many budding plants such as strawberries and medicinal goldenrod. However, as pointed out by Slinger-Friedman, it will be at least five years before the area is fully functional as a Food Forest.
At that point it will sustain itself with differing plant heights, even reaching underground, all helping each other survive in the ecosystem, as it is described in KSU’S Food Forest information document.
With the help of KSU Field Station Operations Manager Michael Blackwell and professor of geography Jason Rhodes, KSU turned the Food Forest into the expansive research operation it is today, according to the Food Forest information document.
KSU’S Office of Research gained control of the 25 acre plot in 2013, and the Food Forest took root in 2020, according to Joëlle Walls’ article. According to the Food Forest’s information document, its mission is to “model sustainable urban cultivation and demonstrate the potential of food forest systems to mitigate climate change and promote food security & health.”
This Field Station is a collection of vegetation and life that allows experimentation on a wide array of organic growth. This includes a miniature orchard of trees displaying ripe pomegranates, figs and a set of hive boxes.
The tour began with the large, weatherproof labs used to submerge seeds, plant roots and grow produce. Every lab has its own unique features and all are equipped with fans blowing right at their entrances to keep pests out. The Propagation Lab, used mostly for planting seed, has its own drip irrigation system to protect seeds from becoming soaked or under watered. Bonham pointed out that the The High Tunnel, used for the final step of growing food, houses beehives to ensure that pollination occurs.
The next stop was a heaping compost pile compiled mostly of wood chips and tree stumps. It was steaming in the chilly air proving its effectiveness in turning into rich soil, much like the piles surrounding it had become.
Another interesting facet of the research conducted on site is a shipping container wired with temperature control, harboring moldy food to grow edible mushrooms. This experiment is conducted by KSU researchers Kyle Gabriel and Chris Cornelison, according to Walls’ article. Attendees of the walk-through were able to peek into the containers and view the fungi flowering out of the packages of food.
For those interested, the next Friday in the Food Forest event will be hosted on Nov. 12.