Atlantans who want to forage for food close to home are in luck: Last month, the city council voted to purchase a seven-acre nascent food forest in southeast Atlanta. It is expected to be the largest food forest in the country.

Food forests are layered, woodland versions of community gardens. They can include fruit and nut trees, shrubs, perennial vegetables, herbs, and vines.

A food forest “kind of flips our agricultural model on its head,” said Mike McCord of the nonprofit Trees Atlanta, who has been managing the Atlanta site over the past few years. “Unlike with commercial farming, we’re growing food on multiple layers. A forest has canopy trees, small trees, bushes, ground covers, vines, fungus, things going on in the root zone. The idea is to mimic our natural forests and grow productive things on all seven layers.”

The Lakewood-Browns Mill community, which surrounds the forest, is considered an urban food desert. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s One Atlanta office seeks to end food insecurity in the city by increasing access to fresh food and developing more resilient food systems. The forest could help the city meet its goal of putting 85 percent of residents within a half-mile of fresh food by 2021. […]

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