Frequently Asked Questions

Where did the idea come from for the Beacon Food Forest?

The Beacon Food Forest (BFF) started in 2009 as a result of a permaculture design course final project. To pass the course four students selected the BFF's actual site and created a dream design which demonstrated all the design elements we had learned in the course. The best tools to come out of this final project were a full size landscape design drawing, which we used to present our concept to the community and Seattle City agencies, and the language to support this design.

How did you get started?

Through outreach, a core group of dedicated believers were found to take part in the project. This group introduced the Beacon Food Forest Concept to the diverse Beacon Hill neighborhood community, where the local public elementary school translates it's newsletter into 50 languages. The Beacon Food Forest recognizes diversity as the definition and essence of a healthy ecosystem and a healthy human community.

On Ground Hog Day in February of 2010 Glenn Herlihy and Jacqueline Cramer, the two Co-Founders, held the first BFF public meeting at the Lawn Bowling Club House in Jefferson Park to explain the possibilities of starting a food forest. We borrowed as many email lists we could find from the community and posted our notice any where we could. The result was about 30 people coming from a variety of city agencies, community groups and local residents. The end result of the meeting was a very positive response from everyone and the beginning of our email interest list. Several of the people attending this first meeting continued on and became part of the Beacon Food Forest Steering Committee which we call SteerCo.

Can you describe the site of the Beacon Food Forest?

The BFF site is west facing sloped land on top of Beacon Hill. We did extensive sediment and soil tests on the soil. The site is centrally located and visible in the community. We are near a public park, business district, public middle school, high school, community center, day care centers, veterans hospital and within the Urban Village zone on Beacon Hill.

How did you find the land for the Beacon Food Forest?

The land the BFF is stewarding is on Beacon Hill, Seattle WA. and is owned by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). This is public utility rate payer land and because the area around our site houses a city water reservoir it is considered water quality land where strict rules apply to protect Seattle's water quality. The BFF is adjacent to, but not within Jefferson Park which is maintained by Seattle Parks and Recreation Department (Parks). The Parks Department is under a land use agreement with SPU to maintain Jefferson Park. Jefferson Park is a 20 year community volunteer design effort and a success story in itself.

How did you get access to public land?

After a positive reception at the first community meeting our next step was to approach SPU, the land owners and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Because these two agencies were working together to build Jefferson Park at the time, contacts were available and a meeting / walk through was arranged with SPU lead Ray Hoffman, other SPU personnel, Kevin Stoops and Andy Sheffer from Seattle Parks and Recreation, and members of Jefferson Park Alliance, the community group supporting the creation of Jefferson Park. The results were positive but absolutely no commitment was given from either agency and many concerns were expressed about needing an official design by a certified WA State Landscape designer, long term maintenance and whether there was large community support for such a project. Next steps from this meeting were to meet with internal land management SPU people, apply for a grant to hire a design consultant / Land Architect and demonstrate to SPU we had widespread community support.

How is the Beacon Food Forest funded?

This is all made possible by the community, and our current fiscal sponsor, GROW (formerly known as 'P-Patch Trust').

The BFF relies on funding through grants and donation. All of the BFF grants have been written by BFF volunteers. If you are a Grantee and feel our organizations could form a beneficial relationship please contact us.

In applying for a grant from the City of Seattle Department of neighborhoods, we received advice that in order to receive funding support we needed to demonstrate an interest from the community. Christina Olsen led an effort and 'hit the street'. She set up a table at many neighborhood events, and tabled at the local grocery store, sharing the vision and having people sign up to support the project and receive information. We created a mailing list of 400+ interested individuals. We also talked with numerous community groups for possible collaboration.

In December of 2010 we received a "Small and Simple" grant from Seattle Department of Neighborhoods for $22,000 to hire a design team and begin creating a schematic design with community input. By early 2011 we had interviewed four design groups and selected one. The new design team consisted of Margarett Harrison and Jenny Pell. This team would work alongside the Friends of the Beacon Food Forest and facilitated 3 public meetings to gather community ideas on what we would like to see in a community garden/food forest.

The grant also included a budget for outreach material which we used to print 6000 postcards in five languages to be mass mailed to zip codes surrounding the BFF site. We created our own posters and scheduled BFF information tables at grocery stores, community festivals and events, garden walks, you name it we had a table there. The result was 70 people at the first meeting, 95 at the second and over 120 at the third. These people were from the diverse local community and city wide. Our email list was growing and many local food activists were jumping on board. We were successfully demonstrating community support.

The schematic design held a lot of leverage, it was drawn by a certified LA, the design fit the actual topography of the site, it had massive community support and input, and in the end demonstrated a successfully completed grant process. Having completed the Small and Simple Grant and demonstrated community support our city officials were starting to listen to us. At this point SPU was more willing to meet and discuss a land use agreement but had a list of requirements we still needed to fulfill, one of which was an organization that could guarantee long term maintenance of the project. This was the beginning of the creation of the BFF management plan.

How did we build support for the Beacon Food Forest Project?

Finding allies is essential to creating a large scale urban agriculture project. We started by partnering with other food ecology advocates and giving tours to university classes of our site. These efforts have resulted in many new volunteers who look to gain hands on experience in the field of their study and programs.

Outreach to local high schools, elementary schools, church groups, hospitals, Rotary Clubs etc has proven successful in gathering leverage support, grant funding and general involvement. Outreach success was measured by numbers. Our Community Work Parties have from day one been over 100 people. Be prepared with event/people management skills.

Meeting people face to face is absolutely the best outreach but Social Media and mass email updates are very effective at gathering interest and keeping the interest going. The BFF started with a bang in the media and it has been a lot of work to keep that momentum going but this effort is beneficial to bringing in citywide if not countrywide involvement. By gathering email addresses from interested supporters, we are able to keep in touch easily through our Newsletter. This helps our supporters stay updated on news, events, meetings and how to get involved. Join Our Mailing List.

How did you choose Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods as your Umbrella Organization?

The BFF is an all volunteer community supported agriculture project and SPU wanted us to have an umbrella organization that could provide stability and assurance to our volunteer organization. After looking at several organizations we went with Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch program a Seattle City agency. By becoming an official Seattle P-Patch our garden would adapt a well practiced set of community gardening guidelines, have insurance for our volunteer workers and membership dues that help cover water costs. P-Patch also had just received an allotment of funds from the voter approved Parks and Green Spaces Levy to upstart and maintain P-Patches throughout the city. They offered us $100,000 to do final construction drawings, permits for construction, hire the Conservation Corps to do major grading / hardscaping and cover costs to put in a water connection and system. As you can imagine this sounded pretty good to us, we accepted but believe it or not we still needed funds for the trees and shrubs to build the forest.

Memorandum of Agreement - SPU & DON:
City of Seattle P-Patch Community Gardens Uses On SPU Property (2012)

How can I get a P-Patch Plot?

Individuals who donate time to the Beacon Food Forest and who help develop the new garden accrue hours. The total number of garden development accrued hours is the principle basis for assigning P-Patch plots. Only one plot per household. Accrued hours can be earned through a variety of means such as physical labor, organizing, fundraising and administrative tasks for the garden development. Other forms of payment may not be made in lieu of accrued hours. Accrued hours towards garden development can be accrued by a potential gardener, family members and/or friends.

Where can I learn more?

Seattle P-Patch Community Gardens
P-Patch Beacon Food Forest Fact Sheet
Edible Forest Gardens
West Coast Food Forestry
Permaculture Now!
The Permaculture Research Institute