First fruit planted for new ‘edible park’

Sue Guinn Legg • Dec 7, 2013 at 8:55 PM

There’s a new “edible park” going in the ground at the corner of Buffalo and Maple streets.

Build It Up East Tennessee, a Johnson City-based affiliate of the national Grand Aspirations organization, is working in partnership with First United Methodist Church Neighborhood Pantry to fill the grassy lot adjacent to the pantry with fruit-bearing trees, bushes and perennial plants for the community.

Dubbed “The Tree Streets Food Forest,” Lexy Close, a cofounder and program leader for Build It Up, said the park will be a place for people to come and learn how to grow and process foods they can take home and eat.

Plans for the park have been drawn and the first of its fruit, two elderberry trees were set in the ground Saturday.

The the two elderberries will be followed by three paw paw trees indigenous to the Appalachian Mountains, an American persimmon tree, an Asian pear tree, a serviceberry bush and a tea bush all purchased with a $250 grant to Build It Up from the Appalachian Sustainable Development organization in Southwest Virginia.

“It will be a community edible park ... a little different than a community garden in that it will be planted with fruit trees with perennial plants around the trees,” Close said. “When its planted, we’ll have workshops and invite people to come to the park and learn how to process the food. We have one planned on jams and jellies.”

Build It up Program Leader Taylor Malone said, “The guiding philosophy with respect to local, organic, fresh food ... is we want to teach people who have the time how to grow it, sell it to people who have the money but don’t have the time and give it to people who don’t have the money or the time.”

Active for about a year, Build It Up has taken part in the community garden project at Carver Recreation Center and also led food processing workshops at the rec center.

The group is now working with the city of Johnson City and private property to locate edible parks elsewhere in the city, including potential sites downtown, near Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home and on Pine Street near Powell Square.

It’s mission is “to improve the health of our community and economy and preserve our region’s cultural heritage through the promotion of local, sustainably grown food.”

More information about the group can be found at the Build It Up East Tennessee Facebook page and at http://zval33.wix.com/builditupetn.

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