A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Future Fruits: A Bold, Sensible Plan to Make Kingston Food Forests

The Future Fruits collective consists of Jared Williams of Saugerties, Karine Duteil, originally of Burgundy, France and now a Woodstock resident, Nadej Hocini, originally from Paris, now living in Kingston, and Barbara Scott of Kingston. (Duteil and Hocini are partners at KaN Landscape Studios.) 

We talked to them about why and how there should be free food growing everywhere, how the Hudson Valley Current fits in, and how you can help.

Can you tell me how Future Fruits got started?

Future Fruits started with the idea that there are lots of available spaces in towns and cities, which are simply lawns. Just grass. OK, maybe there is an occasional ornamental tree or evergreen shrubs. 

How did this minimal landscaping become the standard, as we pushed our immediate food needs further and further from view? Many people in cities know their food only as coming wrapped in plastic or in boxes and cans. This pattern of a supermarket-based food supply has begun to strip humans of the knowledge of planting and caring for our very survival.

Future Fruits is aiming to reverse that trend and put people in control of their community’s food needs within their neighborhood, through education, and artistic, cultural expression. 

We are also very interested in proactively working with the earth during this time period of climate change, by increasing pollinator and wildlife habitat, increasing water retention, decreasing the “heat-island” effect, and of course building soil.

What led you to want to be involved in an effort to activate space to grow food for the public?

Successful public spaces must respond to the needs and desires of involved community members. The current state of our social sphere is one of pandemic and recession, demanding to be balanced by a momentous change toward resilience and community supported interests. Kingston just happens to be a perfect city for stepping up to these challenges right now, as the community spirit builds stronger than ever.  

Many of our common public spaces are minimally designed, heavily manicured, and use a lot of time and fossil fuels, yet do not really provide for our needs as a community. These spaces are often also neglected or vandalized for this very reason. We are interested in activating these landscapes in our street corners, our vacant lots, our public parks, and even our front yards. The hope is to generate a network of connected neighbors who care for the earth, care for the people, and enjoy sharing in the process.  

We are also aware that many people in cities and towns simply lack access to soil, which can be planted in, adding to an already oppressive pattern of unattainable food sourcing.  Therefore, people simply can not grow, even if they wanted to!  This needs to change, and we are here to support that movement.

What are the obstacles that need to be overcome in order for this to happen?

First and foremost is permission to utilize land. Our mission is in direct alignment with the proposed Comprehensive, Open Space and Urban Agriculture Plans for the City of Kingston, and if given the ability to access available land, we can work collaboratively to meet these goals. There is great work being done to address this issue, but it’s going to take the energy of the people to come together and make it happen.

Public land is supposed to be utilized by and for the public, so community involvement is really crucial in getting this idea past the barriers of current norms. The mission is to empower the true community members who live in the immediate area to work with an available site and come up with a design as a group, creating abundance for the immediate community.  The hope is that this good-neighbor view catches hold and takes off with its own wings. 

The good news is there are many great examples of this exact idea at work, with detailed models for us to consider moving forward. Look at Incredible Edible Network in England, Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, Festival Beach Food Forest in Austin, and Help Yourself NorthHampton in Massachusetts.

What are you folks doing to make it happen?

Collaboration is the key.  We are focusing first within Kingston and working closely with established local organizations already working toward similar goals, such as Kingston Land Trust, Live Well Kingston, Harambee, Hudson Valley Bee Habitat, and the City of Kingston.

The idea has been to find lands that are considered viable for this kind of endeavor in the city, then contact owners and folks who live close to these sites, and come together to envision how a unique and abundant cultural center, is much more valuable than a grassy, underutilized open space. The youth of the community will become the designers, leaders, and stewards of these spaces and give these projects a spirit of their own, much like the Pine Street African Burial Ground youth-led design project. 

Are there specific locations established for permaculture? How does your process work? And what kinds of fruits?

Permaculture is about creating connections toward life-giving systems. Nothing is viewed as being separate from the whole system. Each person, each plant, each element in a design has a vital role with many needs and functions, creating an expansive network of related parts. This work of creating permaculture inspired landscapes needs to incorporate the needs and functions of the existing community.

For example, there are food deserts within Kingston, where people lack access and/or finances to afford quality fresh foods or land to grow. These are the locations where our efforts to empower oppressed or segregated peoples will be most effective. This process will have an initial community input phase followed by fun, educational design activities to generate a space that is built by and for local people who are proud of taking care of it into the future. The neighborhood begins to become part of the people again, and will show their personality with strength and grace.

Why has Future Fruits become a Hudson Valley Current member? How will you use Currents? 

The importance of value stands in the hands of the local people. We became Hudson Valley Current members last year, to show our devotion to the people and organizations who live here and also value keeping our currency flowing locally.  

The HV Current has already been utilized in our work in various ways. We have provided perennial edible plants to the public on the online Resiliency Marketplace for the last few months during the pandemic, as people grow increasingly aware of the importance of food security. Food security is economic security is national security. 

We have installed permaculture plantings in people’s front yards in exchange for Currents. These funds will be used toward the purchase of locally available services and supplies for our public produce projects.  

Another idea we have: utilize our over-abundance of Black Currant plants (yes, spelled with an A!) from our nursery. Install them at the homes of HV Current members as a tangible symbol between our currency economy and our food economy, keeping the energy even closer to home.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

We’re starting to create outreach for people to join us in the expanding mission towards local food security. We’re interested in collaborating with folks who feel that their community is in need, who can step up and have fun creating a valued community resource for themselves within walkable distance from their homes. 

Local resiliency is the way of the future, and we have the fruits to get you started! For more information or inquiries, please contact futurefruitsco@gmail.com.