Homesteading is a lifestyle that allows you to live off of the land. It’s about preserving your own food and producing other goods that you can sell to generate an income.
Whether you are raising livestock, growing crops or simply trying to get your hands dirty, homesteading is a great way to spend time with your family and learn new skills.
Mar. 7—ROCHESTER — A grassroots effort to establish a food forest in Rochester is starting at the tops of some apple trees.
Volunteers are gathering Saturday, March 11 to help prune 18 apple trees in Slatterly Park. The trees are at the site of a planned “food forest.”
Area gardeners and homesteaders have discussed starting such a project for years. The goal would be to create a landscape of perennial fruit bearing trees, vines and other plants the public can harvest for food. The site of 18 apple trees in Slatterly Park on the north side of the bike trail along the east bank of Bear Creek was a perfect start, planners of the forest said.
Kim Rodgers, an intern with the Olmsted County office of the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners program, volunteered to take the lead.
“People have been bringing this up for a while now, but when Kim brought the idea to me, she said, ‘What can I do?'” said Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, Olmsted County Extension Master Gardener.
For city staff, the partnership is a welcome arrangement.
“Having the partner organizations is the key,” said
, Climate Impact Corps member with Rochester Parks and Recreation. “I think it’s something the community wanted for a while.”
The Olmsted Master Gardeners volunteers and interns, members of Transition Rochester and members of the Backyard Bounty Urban Homesteading group of Southeast Minnesota are also helping with the effort.
The proposal was brought to the Parks and Recreation Department in December 2022. The department and city council have since approved the plan. The Olmsted Master Gardeners officially signed on in early February.
Kirkpatrick said the first step will be to get the apple trees into better condition to produce more fruit. Sobolewski said city staff maintain the trees, but don’t have the time to give them the care needed to promote a larger yield of apples.
“Fruit trees require a higher level of maintenance,” said Alison Litchy, urban forestry program coordinator with Parks and Recreation. “(The trees in Slatterly Park) don’t get the attention they need to be optimal fruit producers.”
The volunteer pruning event will be a step toward changing that. After that, work will begin this spring to determine what else will be grown alongside the apple trees and serviceberries.
Established food forests replicate a natural environment by having food-producing plants grow together in different layers.
The apple trees will be part of the forest overstory. Other plants will compose the understory, a shrub layer, an herbaceous layer, and a root layer and ground cover layer at the bottom.
A vine layer will also likely be added, which could include hops for area beer brewers, Kirkpatrick said. That planning will be done along with consultation from the Rochester’s Forestry Department.
Upkeep of the site will also be a key component.
“This needs to be kept looking good, it needs to be maintained for the neighborhood,” Kirkpatrick said.
The neighbors will also benefit from having a bounty of fresh produce nearby. All people in the city and visitors to Rochester will be allowed to harvest from the forest food for their personal use.
The location in a walkable neighborhood is another plus for its location, Litchy added.
Kirkpatrick said once community members get involved, the project will likely become more than a project by the cooperating groups and master gardeners.
“Hopefully this won’t won’t be a master gardener project and will be a smooth-humming community thing,” she said.
What: Apple tree pruning at Rochester’s food forest.
When: 9 a.m., Saturday, March 11.
Where: Slatterly Park, 8 1/2 Street Southeast.