As I write this, it is exactly three years to the day since City Council voted 6-0 to adopt the Food Action Plan, which was drafted by the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council [see “Despite city commitment, not much edible landscaping in Asheville” in this issue and “A Nourishing Policy: Asheville Adopts Food Action Plan,” Jan. 29, 2013, Xpress]. The plan outlines five “long-term food policy goals” as well as a series of 14 actionable items. The actionable items include things like removing barriers to community gardens, urban agriculture and farmers markets within city limits.
Item 7 states that the city will: “Include use of edible landscaping as a priority for public property such as parks, greenways and/or right of ways. In support of this, foster relationships with strong community partners who wish to access edible landscaping and/or use underutilized public land for food production.”
Since then, I have often seen the exact opposite in practice. As a designer, permaculture teacher, edible landscape professional and Asheville resident of 10 years, I have been directly and indirectly involved in a number of projects aiming to accomplish this “priority” directly in the form of public plantings of edible fruits, nuts and berries.
Time and time again, the city cites liability concerns (namely slip hazards, food allergies, bee allergies, and even a hypothetical “evil person” who might spray poisons on the fruits). Parks and Recreation seems generally unwilling to cooperate with these endeavors.
Apparently, the Food Policy Council is having trouble getting edibles approved for the new greenway projects. Several times now, well-established public plantings, the result of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and donated materials (installed with permission from authorities), have been thoughtlessly bulldozed or destroyed just when they were beginning to bear a yield.
The city is not only failing to “prioritize” edibles but is actively undoing the selfless work undertaken by thoughtful citizens. It often feels impossible to get almost anybody representing the city to cooperate in a meaningful way.
What is it going to take for the city to let us put the Food Action Plan into action?
— Dylan Ryals-Hamilton