Combining hiking trails with food growing projects
Research project about growing wild food along the trails for the benefits of both biodiversity, locals and hikers
By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org
A new kind of trails have started to appear in the landscapes, in the parks and along the green spaces and forgotten public areas in the cities: it’s the food trails.
They are small paths, where locals and visitors can combine walking with fruit picking, selecting wild herbs and vegetables and help boost biodiversity at the same time
There are more and more food trails all over the world and here on Hiking.org it would be great to put together and inspirational collection of these projects and also to look at some of the experiences and understandings this new combined walking / food is free trend has gained so far
Also part of this project is to build up a collection of free drawings that can be used to talk about, promote or start up new food trails.
Are food-trails a new trend… or the oldest kind of farming in the world, finding its way on?
For many thousand of years we humans have lived as nomads, moving from place to place along ancient and well-trotted paths, finding food along our way, and from generation to generation knowing still more about what sources of nuts, fruits and vegetables we could find where… But in ancient times, did we also nurture and protect our sources of food along our way?
With a minimum of plant-caretaking-effort the old hunter-gatherer nomads would be able to dramatically boost the amount of food sources along the trails. Just by planting the remaining seeds instead of throwing them on the ground after eating fruits etc. they could change the balance between species, just enough so the most nutritious ones had the best odds of survival. And why should they not put this little effort into it, as it would make their own survival so much easier and their loads lighter?
Today modern hikers are also looking for ways to make their packs lighter, and by supplementing their diet with nuts, fruits, herbs and vegetables along the way, hiking can add a new layer of “taste experience”, that make use local food-resources and make it possible for the hikers to relate to the land in a whole new (old) dimension.
What will it take for the system of food trails to thrive and grow year after year?
The food trails, like almost all other kind of trails, need a little, but important level of maintenance and nurture to thrive. New knowledge of ecology and permaculture can be useful here, as the growing place along the hiking trails, is a place where the plants will yield less, but be more resilient and take much better care of themselves.
Who ( and what ) can benefit from food trails?
There is a lot to like about food trails, and all the nutritious, social and community benefits that can be seen by the “food is free” ( foodisfree.org ) movement will with easy could be adapted to also work on food trails.
But it is also possible that there can be some biodiversity benefits and benefits to the soil and trails, by upgrading them to food trails. Not least because when there are fruits, nuts, herbs and vegetables to be harvested along the trails, more people might join in to help care for them. And because food trails is an organic and diverse way to grow food, many different kinds of species will be able to benefit and use these places as both habitat and green corridors.
Especially by connecting habitats food trails stand out, as very different from isolated places, because food trails works as lines of passage, they can connect different habitats and in this way make it possible and more likely for species to move between different habitats, something that is very important for many endangered species to survive and thrive.
By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org