GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In July 2016, the Grand Rapids City Commission established the Urban Agricultural Committee. The committee focuses on a variety of topics, but the main one is growing or raising food within the city. The 13 member committee is made up of community residents and leaders who look at what helps people grow, raise, and harvest food in the city, and what some barriers to doing so are. 

The Urban Agriculture Committee is always looking for input from members of the community on how things can be better. The next meeting is at 6:00 p.m. on September 11, at Habitat for Humanity. The address is 425 Pleasant St. SW, Grand Rapids.

One of the big things the committee discusses is edible landscaping. That's landscaping that includes edible plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs as well as decorative plants. Joan Huyser-Honig joined us in studio to talk about how these kinds of landscapes can be a big benefit for the community. They often also include native plants that attract pollinators like honey bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. You can use edible landscaping as a chance to try out food you wouldn't normally find at your local grocery store. 

In some cases, edible landscaping is done on public land and could be used to provide produce for the public. In Grand Rapids, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and other groups have planted apple and pear trees in Martin Luther King Park and Aberdeen Park. Garfield Park has apple, Juneberry, and butternut trees. Pekich Park has annual vegetables and herbs maintained by the staff at The Dwelling Place and neighbors. You can also pick currants, strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, collards, and other edible plants in the Oakdale neighborhood. 

The Edible Garden Oasis is located at 1480 Kalamazoo Avenue, SE in Grand Rapids. It was created when a group of neighbors used an Amplify GR minigrant to create a pocket park. It has mulch, benches, and edible treats like strawberries, peaches, currants, beach plums, herbs, and vegetables. People are welcome to visit every once in a while and pick what they can use for the day. 

If you want to help out the Urban Agriculture Committee you can do that by participating in meetings, filling out an online survey, or joining project teams to identify and map out food-bearing plants, shrubs, and trees on public land in Gran Rapids. 

Huyser-Honig says you can learn more about edible landscaping by reading. She recommends Public Produce: Cultivating Our Parks, Plazas, and Streets for Healthier Cities by Darrin Nordahl, Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy, Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich, and The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts by Katie Letcher Lyle.